§ Mr. Trippier
I beg to move amendment No. 21, in page 3, leave out lines 43 and 44 and insert—pay day", in relation to a worker, means a day on which wages are payable to the worker:'.
§ Mr. Trippier
These two amendments are concerned with definitions—the definitions of "pay day" and of "demand for payment" in clauses 2 and 3. The two expressions are unclear without the amendments. The amendments are for clarification and do not change policy.
Clauses 2 and 3 introduce controls on deductions and payments on account of cash shortages or stock deficiencies, which are limited to 10 per cent. of any wages payable to a worker on a pay day. The question is whether the pay day should be the day on which wages are payable—that is, due to be paid—or the day on which they are actually paid.
Amendment No. 21 changes the definition of pay day in clauses 2 and 3 fromany day on which any wages are paid to a workertoa day on which wages are payable to the worker".The amendment is required because the day on which wages are paid is not always a precise concept. When wages are paid by direct debit to a bank account, it is not clear whether the day on which wages are paid is to be regarded as the day on which the employer authorises payment or the day on which it is credited to the worker's bank account, which will be later. The amendment does not, however, alter the way in which the controls on deductions related to cash shortages and stock deficiencies operate.
Amendment No. 34 clarifies what the phrase "demand for payment" means in clause 3 and how and when a demand is to be made. Clause 3, inter alia, requires that an employer may not lawfully receive a payment on account of a cash shortage or stock deficiency unless he makes a demand for payment in writing on a pay day.
The amendment provides that a demand for payment is made if it is given to the worker, posted to the worker's last known address or left at his last known address either on the pay day or, if the pay day is not a working day—if it is a Bank Holiday—on the first working day of the employer's business following that pay day. The amendment is needed so that employers and workers can clearly understand how and when a demand for payment must be made.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Trippier
I beg to move amendment No. 22, in page 3, line 46, after 'worker', insert'(whether on a regular basis or not)'.
§ Mr. Speaker
With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 23, in page 4, line 1, leave out'directly with members of the public'.Government amendments Nos. 24 and 25.
§ Mr. Trippier
The amendments fulfil an undertaking that I gave in Committee to consider further the need to ensure that to protections given by clauses 2 and 3, which ensure that deductions from wages or payments made by the worker to the employer that are related to cash shortages or stock deficiencies are limited to 10 per cent. of gross wages, apply to all workers who need such protection. As drafted, the Bill covers those workers who are engaged in retail transactions directly with members of the public. I think that it was the hon. Member for 792 Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) who said that those working in hospital or factory canteens might not be so covered as they sell goods to fellow workers rather than to members of the public.
The amendment ensures that the protection applies to all workers who are engaged in the sale or supply of goods to members of the public, fellow workers or other individuals in their personal capacities. The amendment ensures also that a person who sells both to companies and to the public is fully covered in respect of all his sales.
I hope that hon. Members will support the amendment and those grouped with it, which provide a useful clarification of the Bill and extend the protection that it offers. Amendment No. 23 was tabled by the Opposition and it was designed to achieve the same effect as amendment No. 24. In the light of the Government's amendment, I hope that the Opposition will withdraw amendment No. 23.
§ Ms. Clare Short
This is another small concession, but one of some consequence to some workers, which has been won by the Opposition The House will be aware that it is the Opposition's view that the limitation of fines or deductions to 10 per cent. of gross wages should apply to all workers for all disciplinary purposes. We advanced that argument strongly when discussing the first group of amendments. I am certain that we won the arguments, but unfortunately we do not have enough votes in this place to amend the Bill, although the time seems to be rapidly approaching when we shall have them.
The amendment is of significance to all workers who handle stock or cash but do not deal directly with members of the public. An obvious example is those who work in staff canteens. There are many who work in that capacity who do not deal with the public but handle a great deal of food, stock and cash. If the amendment were not made, they would be liable to deductions or fines up to 100 per cent. rather than to the 10 per cent. limit which the Government, for some strange reason, have decided to provide as a protection for retail workers only.
The Minister has explained that the protection has been given to retail workers because it is in the retail sector that there is the most worry about cash shortage and stock deficiencies. He appears to be telling us that this is the sector in which employers—that is the group to which the Government talk—think that a lot of fiddling is going on and in which deductions should be made. It seems to turn logic on its head to say that because employers are so concerned, the deductions that they make should be limited. We are grateful for small mercies and glad that the protection for workers in retailing extends to workers in canteens who deal with cash and stock, but with fellow workers rather than members of the public.
§ Mr. Nellist
Perhaps my hon. Friend could refresh my memory about the other half of the reason that the Minister gave. Was not his justification for not accepting our amendment to extend the 10 per cent. limit to all workers that, unless employers could fine employees, they would not be willing to take more workers on, which would lead to increased unemployment? Is not confining the limit to retailing effectively saying that the Minister expects more jobs to be lost in retailing?
§ Ms. Short
My hon. Friend is right. The Minister used that argument. My hon. Friend has quite fairly extended 793 the logic and exposed the ridiculousness of the Government's case for not extending the 10 per cent. limit.
The amendment will protect some workers. It will protect canteen workers and probably others whom we have not thought of. We are glad of that, but wish that we could have achieved the same for more workers. As the Government have conceded the point, I shall not press the amendment.
§ Mr. Martin
Is there any way in which the Minister can legislate to prevent employers from deducting trivial amounts from employees? Perhaps I could give an example.
In 1978, when I was a union officer, the Ayrshire and Arran health board, which is not noted for being a good employer, called in the police because it alleged that a woman canteen worker had a pint of milk in her bag. The police charged her and the procurator fiscal in Ayrshire decided that there was no case to answer.
The management sacked the woman, though, so I had to take the matter to an unfair dismissal tribunal. The union's time and resources were tied up. The unfair dismissal tribunal found in favour of the woman to the extent that she got a re-engagement order. For the sake of a pint of milk, the matter trundled on for months. Quite substantial Health Service resources must have been involved. Many of the officials who were sacking the woman for taking the pint of milk must have lifted a telephone from time to time, perhaps to tell their wives that they would be late, and used more of the health board's money than the lady in question.
It must be possible to put something into the Bill to prevent the small minority of employers who would do something so stupid from doing what the Ayrshire and Arran health board did. Had there been such provision, a great deal of money would have been saved.
§ Mr. Trippier
I do not know the background to the case that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) has mentioned. Perhaps he will elaborate later. I do not know whether the bottle came to be missing intentionally or accidentally.
There must be a clear understanding in a contract that deductions can be made. It may be that, when the matter was drawn to the attention of the industrial tribunal, that understanding was not in the contract, so the employer was taking advantage of the position by dismissing the worker without any deduction being allowable under the terms and conditions of service. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and his trade union colleagues tripped the employer up on that.
The provision in the Bill regarding that is perfectly adequate, and the Government do not wish to intervene further in the relationship between employers and workers.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendments made:
No. 24, in page 4, leave out line 2 and insert
'or with fellow workers or other individuals in their personal capacities;'.
No. 25, in page 4, line 5, leave out
'to members of the public'.
No. 26, in page 4, line 7, at end insert—
'(2A) Where the employer of a worker in retail employment makes a deduction from the worker's wages on account of a cash shortage or stock deficiency, the employer shall not be treated
as making the deduction in accordance with section 1(1) unless (in addition to the requirements of that provision being satisfied with respect to the deduction)—
not later than the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the date when the employer established the existence of the shortage or deficiency or (if earlier) the date when he ought reasonably to have done so.'.
§ No. 27, in page 4, line 31, after 'provision', insert 'and subsection (2A) above' .—[Mr. Kenneth Clarke.]