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It’s been said money doesn’t buy happiness. Despite best efforts it’s difficult to pay for rent, food, or travel in happiness so the next step is finding money.

How is money acquired? Mostly, other money. The most hotly perpetuated myth around the rich is that their large wealth is made by “working really hard” - as opposed to the capital and connections they’re already afforded.

The majority of us don’t have capital or connections, so instead we find employment. This is in a market saturated with more seekers than jobs, and not always jobs that assure a living wage, with in-work poverty growing worryingly fast (

Once you are fortunate enough to find work you are fundamentally doing this to earn. Employment: the act of exchanging your labour for payment. That part should be simple. Yet the Unpaid Britain Project ( is finding just the opposite.

Set up by the University of Middlesex, the initiative’s aim is to determine how much workers are being underpaid. With the employment rights we have you would expect it to be in the thousands, yet their preliminary reports estimates workers in the UK are being underpaid to the tune of £1.5 billion a year in holiday pay alone.  On top of this, they’re owed an estimate £1.2 billion a year in unpaid wages. The impact of unpaid or delayed wages can be so significant it leaves people unable to buy food (estimated 23,000 cases last year).

Some employers are also failing to make correct NI and tax deductions (with some even deducting but not paying these). If you reach retirement age and haven’t paid sufficient NI your state pension is now adversely affected.

Policy is only as useful as its implementation. Some employees are fortunate to be in workplaces that take heed of workers’ legislation. Some workers don’t, but are members of trade unions who will work tirelessly to ensure their rights are upheld. And some workers have neither. What do they do? Speak up and risk losing a job they desperately need? The reality is this simply isn’t a luxury too many employees have. The relationship between employer and employee is often not one of equal footing.

The European Union created a host of vital worker-protective legislation. Despite some trying to spin it monolithic law-churner, with zany unnecessary decisions, it’s provided our right to safe working conditions, discrimination protections, and payments.

Yet we’re still being scammed by workplaces – and if these rights are going to be repealed post-Brexit the issue’s only going to grow.

If you’re worried about an employment issue speak to one of Thompsons’ employment law specialists.

Blog by Catherine McGarrell

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