By Maximilian Clarke

Workers' rights have been eroded in the wake of the recession, the Trades Union Congress has said, as up to 150,000 workers are being paid below the minimum wage.

As a result, the UK's leading trades union group has published a booklet to highlight and publicise unscrupulous work practices that exploit vulnerable workers.

Enforcing Basic Workplace Rights, which is aimed at union officials and reps, outlines the role that the UK's four main statutory enforcement agencies - the HMRC National Minimum Wage enforcement team, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and the Health and Safety Executive, plays in enforcing basic workplace rights. It also outlines the powers of enforcement officers and what sanctions employers can face for breaking employment law.

The guide also includes information about the government's Pay and Work Rights helpline - a confidential helpline which provides help and advice on basic employment rights and also provides a single point of entry for those wanting to access the statutory enforcement agencies.

“Tackling vulnerable employment is a key concern for unions,” said the TUC’s Frances O’Grady. “With the labour market struggling to recover from the recession and increasing numbers of those in work facing temporary and insecure employment, action to improve job quality for low-paid workers is as urgent as ever.

“Workers in low-paid sectors such as care, cleaning, hospitality, security and construction can find themselves working excessively long hours, sometimes with no contract of employment. Their work can be insecure and they are regularly paid below the minimum wage.”

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