vulnerable worker

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Is defined by the UK government as someone working in an environment where the risk of being denied employment rights is high and who does not have the capacity or means to protect themselves from that abuse. A variety of factors determine a high-risk workplace, including the industrial sector in which it is located. Conflict and abuse of employment rights tends to be found in retail, hotels, restaurants, care homes, textiles, construction, security, and cleaning. Other risk-factors include the absence of a human resource function and of trade unions, a history of workplace law infringements, and poor record-keeping. The capacity of individuals to protect themselves is a function of financial resources, level of wages, awareness of employment rights, proficiency in English, the support networks available to them, and the extent of their wider dependence on the employer (e.g. for accommodation and loans). To protect vulnerable workers, the UK government has launched programmes to raise awareness of rights amongst workers (including a review of helplines and the launch of employment pages on www.direct.gov.uk), targeting enforcement of employment law at low-wage sectors, and launching multi-stakeholder partnership projects. The Trades Union Congress operates with a slightly different definition of vulnerable workers and includes in the category temporary and casual workers, migrants, and the low-paid. The TUC estimates that these groups comprise one-in-five of the UK workforce.

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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