Council of Europe Committee highlights UK has multiple social rights failings

Date: 9th April 2020

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The European Committee of Social Rights found that the UK failed to fully comply with the European Social Charter between 2014-17 in relation to children, families and migrants.

The European Social Charter provides for the protection of social rights, including areas such as housing, employment, health, education and non-discrimination. It exists in two forms: the original 1961 European Social Charter and the revised 1996 European Social Charter. The United Kingdom has ratified the original Charter but not the revised version.

Areas of concern highlighted in the Committee’s report were:

  • Minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-olds: the current UK wage for young workers was considered unfair due to falling too far below the minimum wage for adults.
  • Working hours for school-aged children: the hours which children subject to compulsory education are able to work during school holidays (35 hours/week) were found to be excessive and therefore could not be classed as ‘light work’.
  • Pain-inducing restraint: the report noted these techniques were still being used in young offenders’ institutions.
  • Age of criminal responsibility: the report said that this should be no lower than 14 years, noting that the UK’s age was ‘manifestly too low’ with a minimum of 10 years old in England and Wales, and legislation raising the age from 8 to 12 in Scotland.
  • Maternity pay: the UK was found to have an “inadequate” level of statutory maternity pay after six weeks.
  • Migrant workers and their families: the UK was found not to be in compliance with Article 19, which concerns the protection of and provision of assistance to migrant workers and their families. Specifically, the report noted that family members of migrant workers are not granted an independent right to remain after exercising their right to “family reunion” and concerns around language requirements imposed on family members.

The report also highlighted several areas of progress in Scotland, including the Children (Equal Protection from Assault)(Scotland) Act 2019 and Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, and asked to be kept informed of their implementation.

Learn more about the Council of Europe and its different instruments.