Hazards banner


SAFETY DRIVE A landmark Korean safety system that sets minimum pay rates for lorry drivers was under threat. In response, members of the truck drivers’ union started ‘unlimited’ national strike action in defence of a ‘Safe Rates’ system that has been demonstrated to make truck driving much safer. A week later, the union won a commitment from the government to ‘propel forward’ safe rates and discuss its expansion Hazards 158, April-June 2022

Degraded Are you sick and tired of too much work for too little pay? Well, you are also likely to be sick because of it, warns Hazards editor Rory O’Neill. Workplace risks go up as your employment grade goes down, with a potentially devastating impact on health.
Hazards 142, April-June 2018

Wage war An undeclared objective of the government’s austerity drive was to increase profits and reduce wages, barrister John Hendy tells Hazards. The labour law expert says it is more than workers’ pay packets that have been hurt as a result and calls for a new collective bargaining approach to combat workplace injustice.
Hazards 142, April-June 2018

Make or break Workers should not be disposable. And work should not be a spirit-sapping, body-breaking grind. Hazards editor Rory O’Neill warns bad jobs are driving us over the edge and says it is time to turn and fight for basic decency, security and rights at work.
Hazards 138, April-June 2017

Face it Whether it is a gaping gulf in pay, job insecurity or job discrimination based on your class, gender or race, a divided workplace is bad for your health. Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the global union body ITUC, reveals how inequality is a real pain in the workplace – and outlines how unions can make things better.
Hazards 137, January-March 2017

Low blow Badly paid work guarantees more than hardship. Because low pay goes hand in hand with low health and safety standards, occupational injuries and diseases like diabetes and cancer frequently come with the job.
Hazards 128, October-December 2014


Britain: Seventy per cent of workers cannot afford time off over Christmas
Many workers face a bleak Christmas as financial constraints prevent over 70 per cent from taking time off. The cost-of-living crisis has forced workers to work over the festive season eroding work-life balance. TUC's Paul Nowak said: "This government has overseen record levels of in-work poverty. And most working people’s pay packets have fallen in real-terms over the last decade — the worst squeeze in earnings in more than 200 years."
Morning Star, 27 November 2023

Australia: Low wages put road transport safety at risk
An Australian transport union leader has warned the safety and livelihood of truck drivers and others is being ‘gravely compromised’ due to the industry’s poor conditions and inadequate pay rates. TWU national secretary Michael Kaine told Sky News Australia: “There are decades of evidence that show in road transport that if you have poor conditions and poor rates of pay, then there is a safety outcome on our roads.”
TWU safe rates campaign. Sky News. More on the hazards of low pay. 24 May 2023

Britain: Working people ‘pushed to breaking point’
Working people are being “pushed to breaking point”, the TUC has said, as latest ONS labour market figures show that real weekly wages are down £19 per week over the past year. The number of people on zero hours contracts is up to 1.13 million, from 1.02 million this time last year.
TUC news release. ONS labour market figures. More on the hazards of low pay and insecure work. 17 May 2023

Britain: Miserly sick pay is punishing low paid
Britain's “miserly” sick pay system is “punishing” low-paid workers, the TUC has said. Commenting on the Resolution Foundation’s Low Paid Britain Report, which criticises the UK’s lack of decent sick pay, TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “We must fix our broken sick pay system by making statutory sick pay available from day one and raising it to the level of the real living wage.”
TUC news release. Resolution Foundation news release and Low Paid Britain Report. Morning Star. 19 April 2023

Britain: Cost of living stress harming workers’ performance
Workers in the UK are becoming so anxious about the cost of living crisis that it is affecting their performance at work, with two-thirds of managers reporting issues such as rising absenteeism and lack of engagement among stressed-out staff. In a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) survey of more than 1,000 managers and team leaders, 71 per cent said they had seen evidence of the crisis increasing stress and anxiety for their teams, with two-thirds (66 per cent) of all the managers surveyed saying it was adversely affecting employees’ productivity.
The Guardian. 14 December 2022

Britain: Low paid workers cannot afford sick leave
Retail union Usdaw is reiterating its call for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) reform after it found most low paid workers cannot afford to take sick leave. The union’s survey found that 76 per cent of respondents cannot afford to go sick on SSP of just £99.35 a week, rising to 9 in 10 for those on in-work benefits.
Usdaw news release. 7 December 2022

Britain: Night workers face lower pay and higher risks
The 3.2 million workers who regularly work nights face lower pay and higher work-related risks to their health, the TUC has warned.  The TUC adds that in addition to no evidence of ‘premium pay’, the health risks of regular night work include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression and adds workers, particularly women, are at greater risk of harassment and attacks in their journey to and from work when it’s late at night.
TUC news release. 3 November 2022

Korea: Make road transport ‘safe rates’ laws permanent
There is overwhelming evidence for the link between road safety and driver pay, international experts and global union leaders have told South Korean lawmakers.  A discussion forum on the ‘Global Trends towards Safe Rates and Implications for Legislative Improvements’ was held in the South Korean National Assembly on 28 September, the day before a parliamentary committee started reviewing an extension of Safe Rates legislation, which is set to lapse at the end of the year.
ITF news release. Risks 1062. 6 October 2022

Britain: Firefighters warn 100-hour weeks are ‘gamble with safety’
Firefighters are taking second jobs and working up to 100 hours a week to make ends meet, leading to growing concerns that an increasingly exhausted workforce is resulting in a “gamble with public safety”. Wages in the fire service are often about £30,000 but can be as low as £23,000.
FBU news release. The Observer. More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 1060. 23 September 2022

Korea: Truck drivers fight ‘deadly squeeze’
On 16 August, four members of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union Cargo Truckers’ Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) gained access to the top of the building housing the headquarters of Hite-Jiro, South Korea’s top alcohol manufacture. The workers were protesting Hite-Jiro’s ‘deadly squeeze’ on truck drivers.
ITF news release. 7 September 2022

Korea: Anger as government scuppers ‘safe rates’ deal
An agreement that would have ended a South Korea truck drivers’ strike in defence of ‘safe rates’ of pay has been scuppered after the country’s conservative government withdrew support. The move, condemned by the global transport union federation ITF, came after the government, unions and business groups had agreed a provisional deal.  
ITF news release. 14 June 2022

South Korea: Truck drivers strike to defend safe rates
South Korean truck drivers have started an ‘unlimited’ national strike action in defence of the country’s ‘Safe Rates’ system. The KPTU-TruckSol union estimates 15,000 members participated in strike rallies held in 16 locations across the country on 7 June, and several thousand more drivers, both members and non-members, joined the strike in solidarity.
ITF news release. 8 June 2022

Britain: Improving work will reduce health inequalities
A major new review of health inequities lays out a roadmap for the role of industry in ‘levelling up’ by improving working conditions. The UCL Institute of Health Equity launched ‘The Business of Health Equity: The Marmot Review for Industry’, which proposes three ways business can improve people’s lives by reducing health inequality: ensure healthy working conditions; ensure good physical and workplace health; and provide sufficient pay and in-work bargaining.
UCL Institute of Health Equity news release and full report, The Business of Health Equity: The Marmot Review for Industry, April 2022. Risks 1039. 6 April 2022

Britain: Changes ‘to hit low-paid workers hard’
The end of Covid rules will leave low paid workers are an increased risk, retail union Usdaw has warned. The union was commenting after prime minister Boris Johnson scrapped the remaining Covid legal restrictions in England and said he wanted to shift the onus from state mandates to personal responsibility.
Usdaw news release. Risks 1034. 2 March 2022

Britain: Night workers face low paid and high risks - TUC
The TUC is calling for better pay and conditions for the 3.2 million workers who regularly work nights. The TUC said employers should consider health hazards of night working and take responsibility for workers safely travelling to and from the workplace.
TUC news release. Wales TUC news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Food union takes aim at 12-hour shifts
Supply chain issues hobbling the food industry won’t be resolved until workers in the sector are given decent working conditions, the GMB has said. The union said unsustainable working practices, long shifts and low wages “are the real cause of supply chain crisis in the meat industry that is strangling the economy.”
GMB news release. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Korea: Safe rates for truck drivers pay off
A ‘safe rates’ pay system for truck drivers in operation in South Korea since January 2020 is working, new research has confirmed. Safe rates systems, which have been promoted by the sector’s global union ITF, set legal standards for fair pay and working conditions in road transport and make companies at the top of contracting chains responsible for ensuring the standards are met.
ITF news release. Analysis of the Early Impact of the Korean Safe Rates System and Proposals for Sustainable Implementation, Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union Cargo Truckers’ Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) and the Korean Safe Rates Research Group (KSRRG), 2021. ITF safe rates webpages. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: Poor conditions in care jobs is the real problem
Poor pay and conditions in health care is leaving staff and services in a parlous state, the union GMB has indicated. The warning follows reports that care group HC-One is offering registered night nurses a signing bonus of £10,000, with similar bonuses proposed by other firms for had to recruit health and care staff.
GMB news release. More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Australia: Government blamed for truck driver deaths
A damaging policy shift by Australia’s federal government is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of truck drivers, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has charged. In April 2016, the federal government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, despite its own report concluding that truck crashes would be reduced by 28 per cent.
TWU news release and Safe Rates Campaign. ITF safe rates webpages. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: Low pay will lead to unsafe care staffing levels
The UK government must pay care workers properly for the job they do, or risk thousands walking away from the sector or refusing vaccine jabs, GMB has said. The union says the imposition of mandatory vaccinations for care home workers in England is not the right approach, with its own estimates suggesting as many as 70,000 staff could lose their job in November at the end of the 16-week grace period by which time they have to have had the vaccine.
GMB news release and related news release. More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: TUC slams ‘failing’ self-isolation scheme
The majority of applications to the UK government’s self-isolation payments scheme are still being turned down, despite increased government funding for the scheme, new research for the TUC has found. The union body warns the combination of new variants, reopened indoor hospitality and increasing numbers returning to their workplaces could once again “brutally expose the failing self-isolation payments scheme and measly statutory sick pay.”
TUC news release. Statutory Sick Pay: Options for reform, The Fabian Society, June 2021. The Guardian. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Care employers failing to pay Covid-hit staff
A third of care staff get less than £100 a week — and more than one in 10 no pay at all — if forced to stay at home by coronavirus, their union has revealed. A survey of thousands of care staff carried out by UNISON found that many are put under pressure by bosses to go to work, even if displaying Covid-19 symptoms or needing to self-isolate.
UNISON news release. Morning Star. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Government’s ‘reckless’ sick pay shocker killed workers
Evidence the UK government deliberately suppressed information on how workers could be temporarily furloughed on 80 per cent of their wages when forced to self-isolate due to Covid-19 has exposed a “reckless” approach that has “cost lives”, Unite has said. The union was commenting after emails obtained by the Politico website revealed that in January and February this year — when the second wave was surging —  the Treasury instructed senior government officials to conceal from the public how a little-known part of the furlough scheme could be used to access isolation sick pay, as the cost of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme soared.
Unite new release. Politico. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Global: IUF focus on safety in fast food
Global food union IUF has said it is sharpening its focus on the fight on health and safety in the fast food sector. IUF said since the beginning of the pandemic, fast food workers, many of whom are paid as little as US$7.25 per hour, have reported serious workplace hazards around Covid-19.
IUF news release. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Working poor hardest hit by Covid
The working poor are bearing the greatest burden from Covid-19, a public health study has found. The research by Sheffield council showed people in low paid jobs, with insecure contracts, who couldn't afford to isolate have been hardest hit by the disease in the city - while the rates were generally greater among the less well-off, they were highest of all in the third income group, rather than the poorest or second poorest.
BBC News Online. BBC Newsnight. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: Low-paid shun Covid tets because of income fears
Families on low incomes are avoiding the Covid-19 testing system because they cannot afford to isolate if they get sick, while red tape is hampering access to the government’s £500 compensation payments. According to research by the CIPD, the association of human resources professionals, when people on low incomes do self-isolate, they find it difficult to access the NHS Test and Trace support payment scheme.
CIPD news release. The Guardian. HR magazine.
Sick pay and debt, TUC, 9 September 2020. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: UNISON in homecare worker travel time pay victory
The government must end the practice of employers denying care staff wages for time spent travelling between visits to the sick and elderly, UNISON has said. The call from the public sector union follows a significant legal victory by a group of homecare workers over illegal pay, in a case brought by UNISON.
UNISON news release. The Guardian. More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Self-isolating workers plunged into financial hardship
The NHS Test and Trace system could fail unless ministers boost Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and ensure everyone is eligible for it, the TUC has warned. The union body was commenting as polling revealed more than 4 in 10 workers would be plunged into financial hardship if forced to self-isolate for two weeks on SSP.
TUC news release and blog. Sick pay and debt, TUC, 9 September 2020. The Guardian. Morning Star. More on work hazards and low pay. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: ‘Poverty’ sick pay drives care workers to work sick
Social care workers must be given full pay when sick, the union GMB has said. The union call came after its survey of thousands of care workers across the UK showed that a ‘shocking’ 81 per cent of the respondents across the UK would be forced into work if they became ill on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
GMB news release and Care Full Pay campaign. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Work Covid-19 payouts stop welfare benefits
The families of low-paid frontline NHS and social care workers who die from Covid-19 will be stripped of eligibility for welfare benefits if they receive a payout under the government’s Covid-19 compensation scheme. Under the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme, the £60,000 lump sum breaches capital limits rules for most benefits, meaning that the recipient would be unable to claim universal credit, housing benefit or pension credit.
The Guardian. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Work hurts low paid twice as much
The government should make injury prevention a public health priority and take further action to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in workplace, a new report from the IPPR think tank has concluded. Its analysis reveals lower earning workers are twice as likely to be physically injured or become ill at work than higher earners
IPPR publication alert and paper, Better than cure: Injury prevention policy, Lesley Rankin and Henry Parkes, IPPR, August 2020. More on work hazards and low pay. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: Government was told poor sick pay was an infection factor
An admission by the government’s top medical adviser that it failed to recognise the workplace circumstances that helped spread Covid-19 has been slammed by the union GMB. In evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care Committee on 21 July, chief medical officer Chris Whitty said “we hadn’t recognised what in retrospect are obvious but were not recognised at the time... people who were working at multiple homes. People without sick leave etc.”
GMB news release. The Times. ITV News. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Australia: Truck drivers in Aldi crash deaths protests
Hundreds of truck drivers took part in Australia-wide protests on 12 February demanding supermarket chain Aldi pay safe rates throughout its supply chain. The union TWU wants Aldi to raise its transport contract rates and standards to reduce the pressure on drivers and operators to cut corners in safety.
TWU news release. Fully Loaded. Risks 935. 22 February 2020.

Britain: Hospital staff to get sick pay boost as jobs go in-house
A thousand low-paid porters, cleaners and catering staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London have won the right to be directly managed by the NHS, health service union UNISON has said. From 1 April the staff – who work in the trust’s five hospitals across the capital – will no longer be employed by private contractor Sodexo and will see their sickness allowances, pay and conditions brought in line with other health service workers, ending years of unfair treatment.
UNISON news release. Risks 933. 8 February 2020

Korea: Truck drivers win safe rates of pay
Korean truck drivers are celebrating after securing a belated guarantee of safe rates of pay. The new measure is a major victory for the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union Cargo Truckers Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) that has campaigned hard for a minimum wage system for the road freight market for 18 years, to make the industry fairer for workers and the roads safer for everyone.
ITF news release. Risks 928. 21 December 2019

Korea: Support the campaign for ‘safe rates’ for truck drivers
A major trade union campaign for ‘safe rates’ of pay for professional drivers in Korea has been launched. The International Transport Workers Federation and the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union’s major online campaign is being run in combination with online union news service LabourStart.
KPTU news release. Support the ‘Safe Rates’ campaign. Risks 926. 7 December 2019

Britain: Low pay means 1 in 10 women don’t get sick pay
A new TUC analysis has revealed 1 in 10 women workers don’t earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. The TUC research found women account for more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of the 2 million UK workers currently ineligible for statutory sick pay.
TUC news release, blog and Flex for All campaign. Morning Star.
More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 918. 12 October 2019

France: Major risk concentrated in the lower grades
Major workplace hazards like shiftwork and multiple exposures to chemicals are concentrated almost entirely in lower grade workers, with managers rarely exposed to the risks. The official SUMER 2017 survey, whose findings were released in September 2019, revealed shiftwork affects almost eight times more private sector unskilled staff (22 per cent) than managerial staff (2.8 per cent).
ETUI News. DARES report No 41 (in French)  Risks 917. 5 October 2019.

USA: Safety interventions less effective for low-waged
A safe patient-handling intervention decreased injuries among nurses, but not among lower-wage care workers, a US study has found. Researchers from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health confirmed the “inequality paradox” when they compared self-reports of safe patient-handling practices and hospital injury rates at two large Boston area hospitals from 2012 to 2014.
Sabbath EL, Yang J, Dennerlein JT and others. Paradoxical impact of a patient-handling intervention on injury rate disparity among hospital workers, American Journal of Public Health, volume 109, number 4, pages 618-625, 2019.  NIOSH Science Blog.
Degraded, Hazards, Number 142, 2018. Unjust pay rates can be deadly, ETUC, 2018. More on the health and safety and low pay. Risks 916. 28 September 2019

Korea: Global backing for truck driver safe rates drive
Transport union activists from around the world have stood side by side with Korean truck drivers demanding the government keeps its promise to make the roads safer. The Road Safety Freight Rates Committee in South Korea is currently considering the minimum wage truck drivers should receive, known as the ‘safe rate’.
ITF news release. Risks 913. 7 September 2019

Britain: Millions now suffer in low-paid, insecure work
More than 5 million workers across Britain are struggling in low-paid and insecure work, campaigners have warned. The Living Wage Foundation figures came as it launched a new Living Hours programme to tackle widespread insecurity over hours, with the foundation saying its scheme will require organisations to pay the real Living Wage and commit to providing workers with at least four weeks’ notice of shifts, a contract that accurately reflects hours worked, and a contract with a guaranteed minimum of 16 hours a week.
Living Wage Foundation news release, Living Hours programme and Living hours report. TUC news release. Usdaw news release. The Guardian.  
More on the work-related hazards of low pay and insecure work. Risks 902. 22 June 2019

Britain: GMB to set up food banks for desperate ISS workers
GMB is to set up food banks for outsourced staff at hospitals across London and the south east of England to ease the impact of delayed wages and an unfair sick pay scheme. GMB says as a result of an ISS ‘pay harmonisation project’, desperate hospital workers will be left without wages for up to a week and are concerned about how they will pay rent and feed their families, adding unfair sick pay systems mean workers are having to go to work when sick or face further hardship.
GMB news release. More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 891. 30 March 2019

Britain: Pay worries are damaging to mental health
A survey of over 10,000 retail workers has laid bare the issues that working people are facing as a result of low pay, short and zero hours contracts and insecure work, their union has said. Usdaw’s research found 92 per cent of respondents have seen no improvement in their financial situation over the past five years and nearly two-thirds of workers (63 per cent) say financial worries are having an impact on their mental health.
Usdaw news release, It’s good to talk mental health campaign and Time 4 Better Pay campaign. More on the health and safety risks of low pay. Risks 871. 20 October 2018

Global: Amazon improves wages, but is still bad on unions and safety
Trillion-dollar corporate behemoth Amazon’s announcement that it will increase the wages of its lowest paid workers in the UK and US shows that pressure from national and international unions is having an impact, unions have said. However, they warn the pay rise comes with a cut in benefits and the company still shows no sign of improving working conditions and ending its global anti-union strategy.
TUC news release. GMB news release. ITUC news release. ITF news release. Amazon UK news release and related blog on the minimum wage scheme. Amazon USA news releaseThe Guardian. BBC News Online. Morning Star. More on Amazon’s poor health and safety record. Risks 869. 8 October 2018

USA: Union clips Uber’s wings after taxi driver suicides
The New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance (NYTWA) has won a groundbreaking cap on new ride-hailing vehicles in the city and says other unions can learn from its victory. The new law followed six suicides by yellow cab and black car drivers forced into poverty by the over-supply of ride-hailing vehicles, as well as increased road congestion.
ITF news release.
Resources: Work and suicide: A TUC guide to prevention for trade union activists , January 2018. Work and suicide prevention checklist , Hazards, number 141, 2018. More on work-related suicide. Risks 864. 1 September 2018

Australia: Truck drivers demand action on deadly risks
Truck drivers are demanding urgent action after a major study exposed the massive toll claimed by Australia’s deadliest job. Truck drivers are 13 times more likely to die at work than any other profession, while the long hours, social isolation, time pressure and lack of job control also make it one of the unhealthiest jobs, according to the Monash University study.
TWU safe rates news release. Full Monash University report and report highlights. ITF safe rates campaign factsheet. Risks 864. 1 September 2018

Britain: Time to ban zero hours contracts outright
Hundreds of thousands of workers are still trapped in jobs that are so insecure they can't plan childcare or budget for their weekly shop, latest official figures have confirmed. Government statistics released this month reveal the number of people working on zero hours contracts now stands at 780,000 - this is a drop of over 100,000 since February, but the bad news is that two-thirds of those on zero hours contracts (66 per cent) have been stuck on them for more than a year.
TUC blog. Sign the TUC ban zero hours contracts petition.
More on the hazards of insecure work. Risks 863. 25 August 2018

Global: Truck drivers are overworked, underpaid and at risk
Economic pressure is pushing commercial drivers to work extremely long hours, contributing significantly to truck crashes, a top researcher has warned. Michael Belzer, an associate professor of economics and transportation expert at Wayne State University in the US maintains long working hours and intense economic pressure are important to everyday motorists, “because the truck driver’s workplace is everyone’s roadway. Trucking casualties claim not only the lives of truck drivers, but a significant number of other roadway users – pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobile drivers and passengers.”
The Conversation. More on low pay is an occupational hazard. Risks 860. 4 August 2018

Britain: Low pay is a genuine occupational hazard
Are you sick and tired of too much work for too little pay? Well, you are also likely to be sick because of it, according to a new report in the trade union backed workers’ health publication Hazards. Presenting academic evidence, the report argues: “Workplace risks go up as your employment grade goes down, with a potentially devastating impact on health.”
Degraded, Hazards Magazine, Number 142, June 2018. Hazards’ low pay webpages. Unjust pay rates can be deadly, ETUC, May 2018. Risks 855. 30 June 2018

Concern at Sainsbury's plan to axe paid breaks
Britain: Sainsbury's is to plough ahead with contract changes for all workers that will mean up to 9,000 of its staff will lose out. On 1 September, the grocer's minimum wage will increase from £8 to £9.20 an hour - but accompanying the pay hike is a plan to scrap paid breaks and axe Sunday 'premium' pay.
Union news release. Usdaw news release. The Guardian. Daily Mirror. Retail Gazette. Morning Star. Risks 852. 9 June 2018.

Global: How your workplace is killing you
The modern workplace can inflict potentially fatal levels of stress on employees, a succession of studies have shown. Stanford University Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of ‘Dying for a Paycheck’, argues that these practices don’t help companies – and warns governments are ignoring an emerging public health crisis.
BBC Capital. Dying for a Paycheck:  How modern management harms employee health and company performance—and What We Can Do About It, HarperBusiness, March 2018.
Joel Goh, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stefanos Zenios. The relationship between workplace stressors and mortality and health costs in the United States, Management Science, volume 62, issue 2, pages 608-628, 13 March 2016. Risks 848. 12 May 2018.

Britain: TUC calls for firms to be made liable for their supply chains
The TUC is calling on the government to give UK supply chain workers the right to challenge their parent employer over minimum wage, holiday pay and other employment abuses. A new TUC report, ‘Shifting the risk’, notes: “For every 100,000 workers, the UK has 0.9 labour market inspectors (excluding health and safety inspectors). In France, there are 18.9 inspectors for every 100,000 workers.”
TUC news release and report, Shifting the risk: Countering business strategies that reduce their responsibility to workers - improving enforcement of employment rights, TUC, April 2018. BBC News Online. Risks 843. 7 April 2018.

USA: When you increase wages, you reduce sick leave
When wages go up, workplace sickness absence goes down, a new study has found. Research by the University of California Davis, published in the current issue of BE Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, concluded better wages led to improved worker health, with improved job satisfaction and better safety programmes coming as part of the better pay package.
UC Davis news release. Juan Du and J Paul Leigh. Effects of Minimum Wages on Absence from Work Due to Illness, BE Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, volume 18, issue 1, January 2018. The Pump Handle blog. Risks 839. 3 March 2018.

Britain: Cornish gangmaster shutdown for safety abuses
A Cornish gangmaster who systematically exploited her workers through skimming off their pay, sending them to work double shifts with insufficient breaks and charging them to live in unhygienic and unsafe caravans has been shut down by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA). Neringa Butkeviciute, 29, operated her business DNK Recruitment out of the Bosparva Caravan Park in Leedstown, Hayle, where she provided workers for jobs in the GLAA regulated sector.
GLAA news release. Risks 835. 3 February 2018.

Australia: Rise in truck deaths prompts union warning
A spike in fatal accidents involving trucks in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has prompted the transport union to call for the return of a road safety watchdog. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said deaths were “out of control” and demanded something be done.
TWU news release. Daily Liberal. Risks 832. 13 January 2018.

Britain: Teacher recruits plummet due to high workloads and low pay
Low pay, excessive workloads and scrutiny and bureaucracy are behind a huge drop in teacher recruits, teaching union NEU has warned. The number of teacher training applications fell by a third from 19,330 in December 2016 to 12,820 in 2017, according to latest Ucas figures.
NEU news release. Morning Star. Risks 832. 13 January 2018.

Britain: Three-fold difference in death rates between job groups
People who work in factories, construction and in housekeeping jobs are the occupational groups that have the highest mortality rates, according to a new study. The study, published in the Lancet Public Health, noted that pay and exposure to risks at work are the two major factors underpinning the differences in life expectancy.
University of Glasgow news release. Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi, Alastair H Leyland, Martin McKee, Kevin Ralston, David Stuckle. Patterns of mortality by occupation in the UK, 1991-2011: a comparative analysis of linked census-mortality records over time and place, The Lancet Public Health, published online 23 October 2017. BBC News Online. Risks 823. 28 October 2017.

Britain: Fashion boss concerned by unsafe UK factories
The “vast majority” of UK clothing factories have worse ethical standards than China, Bangladesh and Burma, the chief executive of high street fashion chain New Look has said. Anders Kristiansen accused British factories of underpaying staff and failing to meet health and safety standards and accused New Look’s rivals of deliberately ignoring the issue.
The Times. Retail Gazette. Risks 813. 19 August 2017.

Britain: Cleaners stand up against hospital grind
Outsourced cleaning staff working at four London hospitals who say they are being worked into the ground are taking industrial action for better pay and conditions. Serco was recently awarded the £600m domestic services contract for Barts Health NHS trust, which runs the Royal London alongside St Bartholomew’s, Mile End, Whipps Cross and Newham University hospitals.
Unite news release and related release. The Guardian. Risks 813. 12 August 2017.

Britain: Insecure work review ‘not the game-changer needed’
A government-commissioned review of insecurity at work has failed to grasp the ‘game-changing’ improvements required to solve abusive employment practices, the TUC has said. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the Taylor eview was right to also call for equal pay for agency staff and sick leave for low paid workers, but added: “It's no secret that we wanted this review to be bolder.”
Good work: The Taylor review of modern working practices, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 11 July 2017. TUC news release. The gig is up: Trade unions tackling insecure work, TUC, June 2017. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 808. 15 July 2017.

How bad jobs are driving us over the edge
A new report from Hazards magazine bad jobs are driving workers over the edge, and urges then to “turn and fight for basic decency, security and rights at work”. ‘Make or break’ concludes: “‘Insecure employment’ covers a lot of sins – fear of losing your ostensibly ‘permanent’ job, inability to find permanent work, scratching a living from multiple jobs or working on short-hours or zero hour contracts, at the whim of someone who claims not to be your employer,” adding: “They all have one thing in common – they are far more likely to damage your health than secure, permanent work.”
Make or break: How bad jobs are driving us over the edge, Hazards magazine, number 138, 2017. Risks 808. 15 July 2017.

Britain: Taylor Review falls way short on protections needed
Unions have reacted with disappointment to the recommendations of the Taylor Review of modern workplace practices. As well as doing little to address insecurity, the unions were critical of report’s claim that “the best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance.”
Unite news release. GMB news release. CWU news release. Hazards Campaign news release. More on health and safety and insecure work. Risks 808. 15 July 2017.

Indonesia: Precarious jobs and poisons in palm oil industry
Women workers in Indonesia’s palm oil industry face insecure work, toxic pesticides and lower pay then male workers. A major problem for the workers is their constant exposure to chemicals, including the highly toxic pesticide paraquat, without the necessary safety measures – and workers suffering ill-health from their exposures are often required to see the doctor who works for the plantation, rather than going to the local hospital, according to the trade union alliance SERBUNDO.
Equal Times. Amnesty International palm oil and human rights webpages. Risks 807. 8 July 2017.

Britain: Parliamentary committee calls for unions in UK supply chains
The UK parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has called for government action to oblige UK-based companies to ensure recognition of trade unions before they sign contracts with suppliers, alongside a stronger legal duty on employers to prevent human rights abuse in their operations. The recommendations, that come with a suite of others in a wide-ranging report on ‘Human Rights and Business’ released on 5 April, would – if implemented – transform rights for workers around the world denied access to the support necessary to protect themselves from long hours, low pay, deadly health and safety conditions and other abuses in the workplace.
Joint select committee news release and report, Humans Rights and Business in 2017: Promoting responsibility and ensuring accountability. TUC Touchstone blog. Leigh Day news release. Risks 796. 22 April 2017.

Global: We are all sickened by inequality at work
Whether it is a gaping gulf in pay, job insecurity or job discrimination based on your class, gender or race, a divided workplace is bad for your health, a top union official has warned. In a commentary ahead of International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the global union body ITUC, said who lives and who dies at work is not an accident of chance.
Face it. We are all sickened by inequality at work, editorial by ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow, Hazards online, April 2017.
Unsafe and unfair – discrimination on the job hurts us all, ITUC briefing for International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2017.
TUC Workers’ Memorial Day 2017 events listing. Risks 795. 8 April 2017.

Australia: Pressures make trucking the ‘deadliest workplace’
A report has revealed the major reasons why truck driving is Australia’s deadliest job. Long hours, pressure to drive unsafe schedules with unsafe loads and an inability to raise safety concerns without jeopardising their jobs are among the risks to safety facing drivers, the Macquarie University study found.
Macquarie University news release. Sydney Morning Herald. TWU news report. Risks 787. 11 February 2017.

Britain: NHS workers quitting over low pay and stress
Staff shortages in the NHS have shot up by 6,000 in 18 months, reflecting staff dissatisfaction with their working conditions, the union GMB has said. The Department for Health’s information service NHS Digital reported the number of unfilled posts increased by a quarter from 23,427 in February 2015 to 29,309 in September 2016 — the latest month for which figures are available.
GMB news release. Morning Star. Risk 786. 4 February 2017.

Britain: Incentive pay schemes make workers sick
Incentive-related pay schemes can stress rather than motivate employees, according to new research. The study by academics from the universities of East Anglia and Sheffield explored the relationship between three types of ‘contingent pay’ – performance-related, profit-related, and employee share-ownership – and positive employee attitudes such as job satisfaction, employee commitment and trust in management.
UEA news release. Chidiebere Ogbonnaya, Kevin Daniels and Karina Nielsen. Does contingent pay encourage positive employee attitudes and intensify work?, Human Resource Management Journal. Risks 783. 14 January 2017.

USA: Fair pay, safe workplaces law welcomed
After a US Senate report found in 2014 that many federal contractors had been repeatedly cited for cheating, harassing and injuring their employees, President Obama ordered federal agencies to check how well companies have complied with labour laws before awarding contracts.
US Labor Department news release and Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. NELP news release. New York Times. Risks 766. 3 September 2016.

Britain: Hotel union challenges backbreaking work
Nine out of every ten hotel housekeeping workers in London suffers from back pain caused by their job, a union survey has found. Over threequarters of the chefs surveyed by Unite reported having witnessed an injury or a near miss caused by fatigue, with the union saying its report, ‘Unethical London’, exposes the low pay and exploitative work practices that have been allowed to flourish unchecked in the multi-billion hotel industry, which employs 100,000 people in London.
Unite news release and Unethical London report. Risks 765. 27 August 2016.

Sri Lanka: Garment workers pay high price for cheap clothes
Garment workers toiling behind the electrified fences of Sri Lanka’s free trade zones are paying a high price for making the cheap clothes sold on the UK high street. UK-based charity War on Want investigated conditions in the factories, said “despite the rhetoric from local and foreign clothing brands on their commitment to workers’ rights, the stark reality for women like Disna remains long hours, poverty pay and scant regard for safety.”
War on Want news release and Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign. Risks 764. 20 August 2016.

USA: Unions essential to public health
Any decline in union power is a threat to public health, according to a paper in the latest edition of the American Journal of Public Health. Mike Wright, director of health and safety with the steelworkers’ union USW, notes that as well is improving workplace health and safety, unions negotiate better working conditions and access to health care, improve pay rates and benefits, protect workers from discrimination and unfair treatment and press for measures to reduce the environmental impact of production. Michael J Wright. The decline of American unions is a threat to public health, American Journal of Public Health, volume 106, number 6, pages 968-969, June 2016. Risks 751. 21 May 2016.

Britain: Better pay can fix mental health problems
A new study has found that low-paid workers who received the national minimum wage in April 1999 reported a decline in symptoms of depression for at least 22 months afterwards. The researchers discovered that receiving the national minimum wage was equivalent to the effect of taking antidepressants.
University of Oxford news release. Aaron Reeves, Martin McKee, Johan Mackenbach, Margaret Whitehead and David Stuckler. Introduction of a national minimum wage reduced depressive symptoms in low-wage workers: a quasi-natural experiment in the UK, Health Economics, published online ahead of print, April 2016. Risks 747. 23 April 2016.

Australia: Deaths expose folly of trucking safety move
A weekend that saw 18 deaths involving trucks on Australia’s roads has exposed the folly of government plans to abolish a tribunal created to lift the pressure on truckers to drive unsafely, the transport union TWU has said. TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said: “We know that a deadly cycle is at play in transport with major retailers and manufacturers squeezing transport operators and drivers with low cost contracts to the point that our roads are not safe.”
TWU news release and safe rates campaign. Sydney Morning Herald. Risks 747. 23 April 2016

Britain: Unhealthy class bias in workplace health initiatives 
Studies show low paying, lower status jobs tend to come with much higher safety and health risks. So, it might come as a surprise to many that workplace health interventions are twice as likely to target those on the higher rungs of the workplace ladder, TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson has said.  
TUC health and safety facebook page. D Montano, H Hoven, J Siegrist. A meta-analysis of health effects of randomized controlled worksite interventions: Does social stratification matter?, Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health, volume 40, number 3, pages 230-234, 2014. Risks 729. 21 November 2015.

Global: ILO green light for road transport action plan
A key meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has agreed a far-reaching resolution intended to tackle the low pay rates in road transport that can lead to dangerous driving. The resolution of a tripartite transport health and safety meeting at ILO calls on the ILO, a UN agency, to research good practice in the area and makes explicit mention of the highly successful union ‘safe rates’ campaign in Australia.
ITF news release. TWU news release and Safe Rates campaign.
ILO Resolution Concerning Best Practices in Road Transport Safety. Risks 725. 24 October 2015.

Britain: Low pay is a workplace ‘well-being’ issue
In an increasing number of workplaces, workforce ‘well-being’ has become a favourite management preoccupation – often as a more palatable alternative to dealing with health and safety concerns, according to the TUC. But a new official report suggests employers may be ignoring the key driver of poor well-being – low pay. 
TUC Touchstone blog. Relationship between Wealth, Income and Personal Well-being, July 2011 to June 2012, ONS, September 2015. Low blow: Low paid work comes with high work risks, Hazards, October-December 2014. Risks 719. 12 September 2015.

Britain: One in five do work for nothing
UK workers gave their bosses nearly £32bn worth of unpaid overtime last year – an average of £6,050 each if these hours had been paid – according to new analysis published by the TUC. The TUC found that one in five (20.3 per cent) of the workforce regularly work extra hours for no pay.
TUC news release. NASUWT news release. Risks 693. 7 March 2015.

Britain: Unite rolls out its drivers’ charter
Transport workers’ union Unite is demanding for a fair deal for HGV drivers amid warnings they are being forced to put themselves and the public at risk by working more than a “whopping” 60 hours a week. Low pay and rising demands from employers to do more increase the chances of serious accidents on the roads, the union warned as it launched its professional drivers’ charter.
Unite news release and Unite drivers’ charter. TWU Safe Rates campaign. Risks 688. 31 January 2015.

Cambodia: Sickening news on garment pay
Unions have responded with anger and dismay to a decision by the Cambodian government to set a minimum wage of US$128 a month for the garment sector. The 12 November announcement comes less than two months after eight major fashion retailers said they were prepared to pay more for clothes made in the country.
IndustriALL news releaseRisks 681 • 22 November 2014.

Britain: Long hours at low pay linked to diabetes
Working long hours in ‘low status’ jobs can increase your risk for diabetes, a new study suggests. Researchers found that people who worked more than 55 hours a week at manual labour or other types of ‘low socioeconomic status jobs’ were 30 per cent more likely to develop diabetes than those who worked 35 to 40 hours a week.
Mika Kivimäki and others. Long working hours, socioeconomic status, and the risk of incident type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of published and unpublished data from 222,120 individuals, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Early Online Publication, 25 September 2014 • Orfeu M Buxton and Cassandra A Okechukwu. Long working hours can be toxic, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Early Online Publication, 25 September 2014 • CBS NewsThe Pump HandleRisks 674 • 4 October 2014.

Cambodia: Brands say they will pay more for clothes
In an unprecedented move, eight major fashion retailers have said they are prepared to pay more for clothes made in Cambodia. It follows a global day of action by unions in support of garment workers’ demands for a higher wage, in a campaign that gathered momentum after repeated reports of workers collapsing at work as a result of poor working conditions and malnutrition.
IndustriALL news releaseRisks 673 • 27 September 2014.

Britain: Unions make work a fair bit safer
Unions make work safer, fairer and better, a new TUC guide shows. ‘The union advantage’ demonstrates the benefits of unions not only to individual workers but to employers and society as well, and points to government research that established union health and safety reps save taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds each year by reducing lost time from occupational injuries and work-related illness.
TUC news release and guide, The union advantage • Risks 671 • 13 September 2014.

Global: Unions kick off transport ‘safe rates’ campaign
A worldwide campaign for safe pay rates for transport workers has been launched by the sector’s global union federation ITF. The ‘Safe rates and a safe industry- we're in, are you?’ campaign is modelled on a highly successful initiative by Australian truck drivers’ union TWU.
ITF news releaseTWU Safe Rates campaignRisks 668 • 23 August 2014.

Britain: Performance pay is bad for your health
Performance-related pay is bad for your health, a new study has found. After analysing survey results of more than 2,500 people from across Britain. Aberdeen University researchers concluded “being in jobs with a performance pay element increases the likelihood of health deterioration.”
Keith A. Bender and Ioannis Theodossiou. The unintended consequences of the rat race: the detrimental effects of performance pay on health, Oxford Economic Papers, volume 66, Number 3, pages 824-847, 2014. Herald Scotland. More on the issue from Hazards and Karoshi.jpRisks 661 • 5 July 2014.

Britain: Government sure to fail on zero hours
Proposals from ministers on zero hours contracts will fail to stem the widespread exploitation of workers, the TUC has said in its response to a government consultation. The TUC submission highlights how zero hours work is dogged by low pay, under-employment, and job and income insecurity.
TUC news release and consultation submission •  The Guardian
More on the health and safety risks of insecure employment
The TUC is organising Fair Pay Fortnight from Monday 24 March to Sunday 6 April. It will be a series of events across England and Wales to raise awareness about falling living standards • Risks 646 • 15 March 2014.

Britain: ‘Predatory’ Amazon receives an unwelcome delivery
On 28 February, Amazon’s UK headquarter received an unwelcome delivery of its own. Campaigners handed over a 56,000-strong petition calling on the firm to pay its workers a living wage. Petition organiser Emily Kenway of the Amazon Anonymous campaign said: “Amazon’s 3-points-and-you’re-out disciplinary system comes under fire in many of these testimonies, with points doled out for work-related injuries and traffic accidents.”
TUC Stronger Unions blogAFL-CIO now blogAmazon Anonymous campaignRisks 645 • 8 March 2014.

Britain: Unequal workplaces are bad for your health
Workplaces with big pay gaps between the highest and lowest wage earners not only suffer more industrial disputes and higher staff turnover, they also make their workers sick. A report by the High Pay Centre found on average workplaces where top earners get eight times the pay of junior staff report at least one case a year of work-related illness, whereas workplaces with pay differentials of 5 or less do not report any.
The High Pay Centre news release and full report: The High Cost of High Pay: An analysis of pay inequality, January 2014 • Risks 639 • 25 January 2014.

USA: Treating workers fairly is good business
Fair working standards for construction workers and financial profit for developers aren’t incompatible, according to a new report from the Workers Defense Project. Instead the report from the Texas-based advocacy group concludes consumers are willing to pay more to live in places built on principles of safety, economic justice and dignity.
The Pump HandleGreen Jobs for Downtown Austin: Exploring the Consumer Market for Sustainable Buildings, University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development/Texas Workers’ Defense Project, 2013 • Risks 617 • 10 August 2013.

Britain: Pressure and job insecurity hits a 20-year high
British workers are feeling less secure and more pressured at work than at any time in the past 20 years, with pay cuts and diminished control over their jobs among the biggest concerns, according to a national survey of employees' wellbeing. More than 3,000 workers aged between 20 and 60 were interviewed in 2012 for the latest in a six-yearly Skills and Employment survey.
Cardiff School of Social Sciences news release and the 2012 Skills and Employment Survey (SES) and three reports: Fear at work in Britain, Work intensification in Britain and Job-related well-being in Britain, May 2013 •  Financial Times • The Guardian • More on insecure work and health •  Risks 606 • 25 May 2013.

Back to the top of the page




Higher paid, higher status work is relatively immune to work-related health problems – occupational injuries, cancers, nervous system disorders, suicides, reproductive problems, strain injuries and cardiovascular diseases are all concentrated in less well remunerated work. The lower your grade, the higher your risks.

- Rory O’Neill, editor, Hazards

On this page

Hazards webpages
Insecure work
Vulnerable workers
Work and health