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Polish Employee Rights - Anna's Case Study

by BERR
Polish Employee Rights - Anna's Story

Don’t settle for less…

“When I started my job as a food packer, nobody would tell me how much I’d earn. Other Polish people at the factory in Leeds complained of very long shifts. Already, I’d paid the employment agency £60 ‘administrative costs’, plus more for my flat and transport to work. Then I found out that, after deductions, I’d get less than £100 for a full month’s work. Was this why I’d come to the UK? Was this why I’d left my two young sons with their grandmother back in Poland? Was this my bright new future?
Single-mother Anna is not alone. Each year, thousands coming to the UK to work are met with poverty pay and other exploitation by agencies or employers. However, what many workers don’t realise is that the law is on their side. The National Minimum Wage exists specifically so people don’t have to put up with such abuses, and instead have the chance of a decent standard of living.
What the National Minimum Wage means to you
If you’re aged 22 or over and provided you’re working legally in the UK and not genuinely self-employed, £5.52 an hour is the least your employer can pay you, by law. Lower minimum wage rates apply if you’re younger – £4.60 an hour for 18-21 year olds, and £3.40 an hour for 16-17 year olds. Limits also exist on how much an employer or agency can deduct from your wages to cover your housing.
Anna says, “Before coming to the UK, I read about the National Minimum Wage. But I didn’t know exactly how much it was or how to calculate it. When working as a cleaner in London, I was first told I’d be earning £5.52 an hour. But my actual wages worked out far less. In fact, I never knew how much I’d be paid. One week I received £170, and another week just £80.”
Anna suspected this wasn’t right. But, like many in her situation, she didn’t want to risk upsetting her employer by asking them to explain. Here too, the law applies. If you’re working in the UK, you have the right to receive a document setting out how your pay has been calculated.
An instant pay rise could be just a call away
Help is at hand. To get your legal entitlements, you could try speaking to your employer. Alternatively, you can call the National Minimum Wage helpline on 0845 6000 678. Calls are confidential, and a fellow Polish speaker will discuss things with you. If need be, a specialist team will help you get the pay – including any back pay – you are due. To read more about your entitlements, in your own language, you can also go online at www.direct.gov.uk/nmw-polish

Following her call to the helpline, Anna is today suing her  Leeds employers for the money they owe her. She is considering action against her employment agency, too. “If only I’d known about the National Minimum Wage helpline before,” she says, “I’d have been able to claim my legal entitlement much easier, and much earlier.”
Useful contacts for help with employment problems:
• National Minimum Wage confidential helpline: 0845 6000 678
• ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service): 08457 47 47 47 – assistance with annual leave and other employment issues
• Employment Agency Standards helpline: 0845 955 5105 – if you have problems with an employment agency
• Citizen’s Advice Bureau: to book a face-to-face appointment at your local CAB office, find it online at http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/cabdir.ihtml or in Yellow Pages

Do you want to disuss this or similar experiences? visit  our forum www.eastwestforum.co.uk



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- Club fire highlights problems in Romanian Healthcare System
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