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UK Labour Laws: A World Cup Apart

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

According to recent newspaper reports Qatar’s migrant workers face exploitation amounting to modern day slavery as they work on the infrastructure for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

Although the nature of the reporting may be somewhat inflammatory, there is evidence that at least forty four workers have died between June and August 2013 and thousands more have had to endure appalling labour abuses.

Few would argue that the UK has reached legislative nirvana in relation to employment or health and safety laws but such abuses do highlight the strength of the UK’s legal safeguards.

Qatar’s World Cup Working Conditions

Investigations in 2013 apparently revealed that Qatar’s workers have been subjected to forced labour, improper pay, long hours, deprivation of drinking water and cramped living conditions.

Allegations of such inhumane working conditions sparked international outrage but the protections available to workers in the workplace vary from country to country.

In the UK there is a comprehensive body of labour and health and safety law which entitles each and every worker to a basic set of rights designed to stop abuses from happening and to reduce the safety risks to workers.

How are UK Workers Protected from Poor Working Conditions?

From day one of any job all employees are entitled to an itemised pay slip, the national minimum wage as well as protection against illegal deductions to their pay packet. Not only does this ensure employees are actually paid, it also affords a fair rate of remuneration for their work.

Health and safety laws are designed to protect workers against unfair working conditions in the work place. Workers are entitled to work no more than forty eight hours a week (unless they opt out) and on top of this they are afforded daily rests and breaks.

Even the hardest of grafters need a day off from time to time, and under UK law, all employees accrue holiday relative to the number of hours they have worked. Full time employees are entitled to at least 28 days a year and part-time employees are entitled to a pro-rata amount.

The longer an employee works for an employer the more rights he or she will accrue. Once an employee has worked for an employer for a minimum of two months he or she is entitled to receive a written statement of the terms of employment. In cases of dismissal, employees who have worked for their employer for at least a month are entitled to notice of their dismissal. Anyone who has worked for their employer for at least a year prior to the 6th of April 2012 (or two years after this date) is entitled to written reasons for their dismissal.

Even when an employment ends, if there has been foul play some rights continue to apply. Providing an employee has been employed for a certain amount of time, he or she is entitled to compensation in cases of unfair dismissal as well as a pay-out in cases of redundancy.


Working conditions are often something we take for granted, but contrast this to the plight of Qatar’s World Cup workers, and we can begin to understand the importance of this body of law.

If you would like more information regarding health and safety in the workplace or other Employment matters, Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can advise you. Please contact Aneil Balgobin via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.

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