Bengali Workers rely on the Pay and Work Rights Helpline to solve employment issues

Bengali Workers rely on the Pay and Work Rights Helpline to solve employment issues

The Pay and Work Rights Helpline, launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in September 2009, has been positively assisting workers in search of information and advice about five specific employment areas:

National Minimum Wage
Agricultural Minimum Wage
Employment agency standards
Gangmaster licensing
Working Time (48 hour average working week)

This service is part of a Government campaign aimed at raising awareness about employment rights amongst vulnerable workers. The Bengali community, along with other migrant workers from various nationalities, has been targeted in this campaign, as they are less aware of their rights at work. The free PWR helpline on 0800 917 2368 offers information and advice in more than 100 languages, including Bengali and the calls are treated in confidence.

Feedback from the helpline advisors shows that calls received from the Bengali community come from workers and agency workers predominately. The most common areas of concern amongst them are related with the national minimum wage and employment agencies regulation.

A recent poll shows that nearly half of people (48 per cent) wrongly thought employment agencies can charge workers a fee for finding them a job. The poll was conducted last year, coinciding with the launch of the Vulnerable Workers campaign.

Agency workers are protected by law and employment agencies must comply with the current regulations:
• The agency must pay for every hour worked;
• The agency must state in writing how much they are paying, their terms and conditions and what type of work they will find for their clients;
• They must not ask for money to find work;
• They can charge for extra services but cannot force workers to use these services as a condition for finding them a job;
• They cannot deduct money for things like equipment, protective clothing or uniforms unless the worker agrees to this in advance; and
• Agency workers also have the right to paid holiday and rest breaks.

The current National Minimum Wage for workers aged 22 or over is £5.80 an hour. Also, workers employed in the hospitality sector should know that from 1 October 2009 any tips must be extra on top of the minimum wage. Employers cannot take money for things like equipment, protective clothing or uniforms out of the salary if that makes it less than the national minimum wage.

Bangladeshi workers who think they have been underpaid or feel that employment rules have been broken at their workplace are encouraged to call the freephone on 0800 917 2368 and speak with an advisor in confidence. A PDF version of the “Want to Know More about your Rights at Work?” leaflet in Bengali is also available on

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