Advice Column: Problems at Work

Thursday 4th October 2018

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column we focus on problems at work.

 I am worried that my employer is withholding my employment rights from me. What should I be looking out for?

Asking people to go self-employed to keep their jobs, telling agency staff they don’t get sick pay and suggesting pregnant staff cut their hours are among the things some employers say to try and find ways around workers’ rights.

All employees are entitled to basic rights such as national minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay and fair treatment during pregnancy. However, issues such as contract types and unclear employment status can leave workers unsure about what they’re entitled to, and allow unscrupulous employers to find ways of depriving them of pay and protections.

We want the Government to create a single Fair Work Authority to make it easier for people to get the rights they’re entitled to by clamping down on illegal business practice.

In the last year, we have helped people with over 1225 employment problems. We have identified 10 common things that some employers say to try and mislead people about their rights. If you hear any of these, get advice:

  1. “You work for us, but you’ll need to pay your own national insurance contributions.”
  2. “We can’t afford to pay you any more – you’ll have to go self-employed.”
  3. “Your disability means you don’t do as much work as others, so we’re not going to pay you the minimum wage.”
  4. “You were traveling between clients – so we didn’t pay you for those hours.”
  5.  “You’re pregnant? Great! But we’re worried you won’t cope so we’re cutting your hours.”
  6. “You’re having a baby next year? We’ll need to take you off that important project now.”
  7. “We don’t have to pay you redundancy pay because you’re on a zero hours contract.”
  8. “We need to close for the next two days for stock taking, so you’ll need to take holiday.”
  9. “You work through an agency, so you don’t get sick pay.”
  10. “We took you off the rota, so we don’t owe you sick pay.”

Follow our top tips for tackling problems at work

  1. Keep evidence – keep hold of letters, payslips, emails and texts, and note down a record of conversations you’ve had which could be used to support your case.
  2. Talk to your boss – problems may arise from honest mistakes or misunderstanding the law. If you don’t feel confident having a conversation one to one, ask a colleague or Union rep to join you.
  3. Have a more formal discussion – if the issue isn’t resolved with an informal conversation, the next step is to raise a written grievance which should give you the chance to discuss your issue formally. ACAS has guidance on what to do at:
  4. Get advice – if you’re still not getting anywhere, speak to your Trade Union, ACAS or Citizens Advice.  Options might include using dispute resolution to liaise with your employer, or going to an employment tribunal.


More information and advice is available at:

Look out for our column next week when we focus on nuisance neighbours.

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date version, please visit the Citizens Advice website at