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Employee Exploitation at Work

By Taslim Ahammad:


The utmost extreme form of exploitation in employment at work is slavery. Maximum groups which are exploited in employment are underprivileged groups, such as indigenous populations, women, children, immigrants, the illiterate, the lowest levels of national social order, the aged, and the disabled. Such groups may not have the knowledge or other means to encounterthe exploitation and may sink into a state of boredom, stress out, helplessness and resignation.

Exploitation may happen to anyone, whether in the UK or Bangladesh. Offenders often target people with vulnerabilities, whether that’s down to their personal circumstances, their employment status, their language abilities, long working hours without proper compensation, low wages that do not meet the cost of living, lack of benefits, unsafe working conditions, and limited opportunities growth, advancement and so on that isolates them from other people.

Even though the term exploitation appears not to have been used to describe unfair advantage-taking prior to the 19th century, there are nevertheless extensive discussions of the themes and problems that characterize contemporary discussions of exploitation in the history of philosophy.

In currentcultures, the workplace is a dynamic environment where individuals contribute their skills and efforts to drive economic growth and achieve business goals. Yet, beneath the surface of this apparently equitable exchange lies a complex issue known aslabourexploitation. This phenomenon occurs when workers are subjected to unfair treatment, inadequate compensation, and unfavorable working conditions, often to benefit employers or the organization’s profitability. Hence, labour exploitation is the abuse of people in the workplace for profit. The abuse can be direct and brutal or much less obvious. Nevertheless, its impact is devastating for victims; psychologically, physically, emotionally, financially and maybe more.

Employees are exploited in many different ways at work, including: (i) Having wages being taken at source (ii) Being kept in isolation and/or being misleading (iii) Through psychological, physical and sexual abuse (iv) Being subjected to threats of physical violence or other forms of bullying (iv) Being forced to work long hours and without breaks (v) Being subjected to poor workplace health and safety, working conditions and absence of legally required personal protective equipment (vi) Being made to use poorly maintained or faulty equipment (vii) Where accommodation is provided, being overcharged for cramped and unsanitary living quarters (viii) Their movement between employers being prevented, restricted or tightly controlled (ix) Having their liberty restricted in obvious or more chic ways.

Causes of employee exploitation at workplace – (a) Power Imbalance: Employers often hold more power in the employer-employee relationship, allowing them to set the terms and conditions of employment to their advantage (b) Globalization and Competition: In a competitive global economy, companies may search for cut costs to remain competitive, which can lead to a reduction in labour expenses, often at the expense of workers’ well-being. (c) Lack of Regulation: Weak or inadequate labor laws and regulations in certain regions can create an environment where employers have fewer incentives to ensure fair treatment of workers. (d) Inadequate Unionization: A decline in unionization rates reduces workers’ collective bargaining power, making it harder for them to negotiate fair wages and conditions. (e) Exploitative Business Models: Some business models rely on keeping labor costs as low as possible, leading to a disregard for workers’ rights and well-being.

Effects of employee exploitation at work: (i) Physical and Mental Health: Prolonged exposure to stressful working conditions and long hours can lead to physical and mental health issues among employees (ii) Poverty and Inequality: Exploitative wages can trap workers in cycles of poverty, contributing to overall income inequality in society (iii) Reduced Productivity: Workers who feel undervalued or exploited are less likely to be motivated and productive, leading to suboptimal organizational performance (iv) High Turnover Rates: Exploited employees are more likely to leave their jobs, resulting in high turnover rates that disrupt workflow and increase training costs for employers (v) Social Unrest: Widespread employee exploitation can lead to social unrest, protests, and even strikes, disrupting economic stability.

Mitigationofemployee exploitation at work: (a)Strong Labor Laws and Regulations: Governments should enact and enforce robust labor laws that protect workers’ rights, ensure fair compensation, and promote safe working conditions (b) Collective Bargaining: Empowering workers to collectively bargain helps balance the power dynamic between employers and employees, leading to more equitable outcomes  (c) Transparency and Accountability: Companies should be transparent about their employment practices, wages, and working conditions. Independent audits can help ensure compliance with fair labor standards (d) Ethical Consumerism: Consumers can influence companies’ behavior by supporting businesses that prioritize ethical treatment of employees and avoiding those that exploit workers. (e) Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Organizations should integrate social responsibility into their business models, considering the well-being of employees alongside profit generation (f) Skill Enhancement: Providing opportunities for skill development and career advancement can empower workers and reduce their vulnerability to exploitation (g) Global Efforts: International organizations and alliances can promote fair labor practices across borders, holding companies accountable for their actions in different regions.

It is necessary to ensure any business is a safe and healthy environment where employees feel equally heard and respected is vital to success. Hence, employee should never allow anyone to exploit. At the same time, do not work for an employer out of fear and because you do not think you can get another job. There are new jobs available all the time. Now, to challenge this problem, a collaborative effort involving governments, businesses, workers, trade union, media and consumers is essential. By promoting fair labour practices, ensuring transparent employment conditions, boundary setting, regular communication and upholding workers’ rights, we can work towards creating a more just and equitable work environment for all.

Taslim Ahammad

Assistant Professor, Department of Management Studies

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Gopalganj, Bangladesh & PhD Fellow

E: taslim.ahammad@gmail.com, M: +8801627807137 (BD), +4407809708385 (UK)