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MP and GMB bid to make sure workers get paid holiday

The GMB - Britain's General Union - is supporting a Bill to be presented in Parliament today by one of the union’s own members - Anne Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South. The Bill will ensure that workers get their full entitlement to four weeks paid holiday every year. The Bill will give extra enforcement powers to the inspectors who presently visit workplaces to check that employers are paying their workers the minimum wage.

Anne Begg said"At the moment, thousands of workers may be unaware that they are entitled to four weeks paid holiday every year. The right to a National Minimum wage gets a lot of publicity so most workers know what they are due, but there is still a great deal of ignorance about the right to paid holiday. While minimum wage enforcement officers have been reasonably successful in tracking down employers who are breaking the law by paying poverty wages, they don't have the power to take action when they find the same employer is not providing full paid holiday entitlement."

The GMB raised the problem with Anne Begg and she agreed to try and get the law changed. A study of Labour Force Survey data by the TUC found that 400,000 full-time workers were receiving less than 12 days paid leave a year.

GMB General Secretary Kevin Curran said: "GMB members will be pleased to learn of this Bill, which addresses a hidden problem. Anne Begg is doing the low-paid a great service by raising their right to paid holiday up the political agenda. Many bad employers have been relying on people not knowing what their rights are. That kind of exploitation has to stop, and enforcement is often the only way to get bad employers to change their ways."

The Bill, called the Annual Leave Entitlement (Enforcement) Bill, will give extra powers to the inspectors from the Inland Revenue National Minimum Wage Enforcement Agency so they can take action against employers when they find they are not providing 4 weeks paid holiday pay, even although the inspectors may have been called into a workplace to check for other employment violations.

Anne Begg added, "This will take the pressure off individual employees who may be frightened to take out a complaint against their employer for fear of losing their job. They will not have to be identified as the person who called out the Enforcement Agency. The inspectors will be able to turn up and check all records and sort out all employees' problems, not just that of the person who originally called."

Under the current system an employee can challenge their employer by going to an employment tribunal, but this is usually costly and takes up a lot of time for the employee. For the employer, even if they lose, they only have to pay damages to the employee who brought the law suit, but can leave the rest of the workforce on less than they deserve.

Anne Begg said, "We have made it easier for people to work, and made work better and more rewarding. We should make sure that those who are being unfairly treated are helped, and that's what this Bill will do."

A ten minute rule bill is when time is given to a backbench MP to introduce a bill of their own, where they give a speech of ten minutes. These bills are introduced on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and only one is allowed per day. If the bill is approved by the House of Commons at the its first reading, then it will join the queue to be given a second reading and become part of the legislative program.

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