Hospitality workers are among the two million people in the UK who are forced to endure "intolerably poor working lives", a new TUC report has warned.
Legal loopholes have resulted in workers becoming trapped in a continual round of low-paid and insecure work "where mistreatment is the norm", the union body said.
The report, Hard Work, Hidden Lives, criticises hotels and restaurants for poor policies on pay, dismissal and working time.
It highlights the case of hotel chambermaids who were obliged to be available to work from 8am, but who were not paid for the extra hours if rooms were vacated in late morning.
A bartender who was kept collecting and washing glasses because she was not "blonde and skinny", was another example of poor practice.
The report says that vulnerable workers suffer because they do not know their rights and lack an escape route from vulnerable jobs.
It also points to workers' inability to get their rights enforced and that they often suffer when they try to do so.
Fran Bennett, a senior research fellow at Oxford University who sits on the commission, said: "Loopholes in the laws that are meant to protect workers must be closed."
However, John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said while the report's focus on protecting workers from abuse was welcome it had failed to distinguish between improved enforcement of existing employment rights, which would have real benefits for vulnerable workers, and more regulation, which would not.
"It is more effective enforcement of these existing rights that would truly help protect vulnerable workers and prevent good employers being undercut by rogue firms.
There should be no hiding place for employers who deliberately break the law and exploit staff."
By Gemma Sharkey
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