The UK government has announced the formation of a single enforcement body with the sole purpose of protecting worker’s rights and reducing exploitative working practices in the labour market.
The formation of the watchdog will involve the integration of The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) issued a statement detailing that the newly formed body will focus on tackling modern slavery in the UK, enforcing the minimum wage, and safeguarding agency workers – who are typically subject to insecure working rights and employment contracts.
Business minister Paul Scully, said: “This new workers’ watchdog will help us crack down on any abuses of workers’ rights and take action against companies that turn a blind eye to abuses in their supply chains, while providing a one-stop shop for employees and businesses wanting to understand their rights and obligations.”
The announcement comes at a time when concerns surrounding rising instances of modern slavery in the UK during the pandemic have accelerated, and calls to action have been made.
The watchdog will be a destination for whistleblowing so that workers who have suffered a breach of their rights can report bad behaviour.
The body will also provide guidance to businesses on the correct way to treat employees.
Kate Shoesmith, deputy chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said: “We hope government press on with this quickly. Merging the current enforcement bodies will be complex, and the new body will need to be properly resourced to work effectively. Government must also ensure the single body has the powers it needs to drive real change. We have offered to work with government on the detail of how these powers might be extended using our extensive insight from the frontline of the labour market.”
“Focus will hone in particularly on sectors where rates of workers’ rights abuse are high, such as agriculture and construction. The body will seek to form community links and work with groups to spread awareness and enhance engagement with those potentially at high-risk.