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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Homeworkers 'being exploited'
A worker sewing
Workers are often paid by the item
An estimated 70,000 workers in Scotland are paid less than the minimum wage and being forced into overtime, according to a report by Oxfam.

The charity claims that people doing manual work at home for high street retailers are being exploited like workers in Asia.

The UK Government has been urged to implement the International Convention on Homework.

The charity also wants retailers to ensure that workers' rights are upheld.

The Made at Home report, published on Monday by Oxfam, the STUC and the National Group on Homeworking (NGH), said international labour standards must be implemented for the UK's one million homeworkers.

Trade unions can help enforce homeworkers rights but the rights need to be embedded in law in the first place
Bill Spiers
It charity said workers are receiving no minimum wage, no sick pay, no maternity leave, no redundancy pay, forced overtime and no health and safety checks.

Homeworkers do small-scale industrial jobs like packing tights or putting together Christmas crackers, often paid by the item.

Angela O'Hagan, of Oxfam in Scotland, said: "Our research uncovers the double standards of retailers who claim they want to uphold the rights of workers in their supply chain, while at the same time making it impossible for their suppliers to do so by demanding cheaper products at the expense of worker's rights.

Angela O'Hagan
Ms O'Hagan says the government must take action
"They get away with it because home workers are not entitled to the same labour rights other workers have. Ensuring the minimum wage is paid is also key.

"At present homeworkers are entitled to it, but seldom receive it, some receiving as little as 73p per hour.

"The government needs to take stronger measures to enforce payment."

STUC General Secretary, Bill Spiers, said legislation in this area of the labour market was weak.

Mr Spiers said: "If workers complain they often lose their jobs yet are currently not entitled to any redundancy pay.

"Trade unions can help enforce homeworkers' rights but the rights need to be embedded in law in the first place."

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