New figures published 11 March reveal that since April the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate (EAS) has won back nearly Ã‚Â£200,000 in unpaid wages for agency workers. This is treble the amount clawed back in the previous year.
The latest figures came as EAS published new targets to ensure that vulnerable agency workers get even better protection after meeting or exceeding nearly all of its previous goals.
The body, which regulates employment agencies, set out how it would increase compliance with their regulations, improve their effectiveness and impact, and deliver good customer service.
The underlying targets agreed by EAS for 2010/11 include pledges to:
- complete 80 per cent of investigations within six weeks of receiving a complaint (up from 75 per cent which was exceeded); and
- submit 95 per cent of papers for potential prosecutions to Head Office within two months of legal advice (up from 90 per cent which was met).
Employment Relations Minister Lord Young said:
“EAS has achieved some notable successes, recovering more money than ever for agency workers and increasing awareness of their work amongst employers as well as employees. I am confident they can build on this success.
“The new targets demonstrate our commitment to more effective enforcement – protecting vulnerable agency workers and ensuring a level playing field for legitimate businesses.”
Publication of the targets coincides with the latest meeting of the Fair Employment Enforcement Board (FEEB) which brings together Government, business groups, unions and Citizens Advice to ensure effective enforcement of the law.
The Board’s work is based on raising awareness among vulnerable workers of their employment rights, simplifying access to the enforcement of those rights, and greater joint working between the enforcement agencies.
Since first meeting in October 2008 – 18 months ago – FEEB has overseen:
- the launch of a single enforcement ‘Pay and Work Rights’ helpline to report cases of mistreatment;
- a significant and sustained campaign to raise workers’ awareness of their basic employment rights;
- a campaign by the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate (EAS) to inform agency workers of their rights; and
- the latest round of the Union Modernisation Fund focused on projects for unions to improve their ability to help vulnerable workers.
The Board leads the fight to protect vulnerable workers from the minority of unscrupulous employers who exploit their staff and undercut their competitors.
Citizens Advice chief executive David Harker said:
“The various initiatives overseen by FEEB are making life ever harder for rogue employers seeking to profit from the exploitation of vulnerable workers.Ã‚Â That is good news not just for workers, but also for taxpayers and the great majority of employers who abide by the law.”
Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary said:
“The work overseen by the FEEB has led to more effective and better co-ordinated enforcement of basic employment rights and better protection of vulnerable workers.
“The TUC also welcomes the increase in unpaid wages recovered for agency workers by EAS, and the new improved targets for investigations.Ã‚Â They are significant steps in tackling the abuses faced by agency workers.Ã‚Â It is important there are on-going improvements in the coming year so that all vulnerable agency workers will be guaranteed their rights at work.”
Anne Fairweather, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) Head of Public Policy, said:
“The REC has consistently called for the effective enforcement of current regulations to address the activities of rogue providers who undercut legitimate agencies. We welcome the fact that EAS is having an impact and we will continue to build links with the REC’s own assessment officers.
“EAS can continue to enhance its effectiveness through a targeted approach to inspections and by continuing to work in partnership with the recruitment industry.”
- Ã‚Â The Employment Agency Standards inspectorate is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The inspectorate carries out inspections of agencies on the basis of perceived risk of non-compliance and investigates complaints about agency conduct. To find out more about the EAS visit: http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/employment/employment-agencies/index.html
- The new EAS targets can be found here: www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/employment/employment-agencies/about-the-eas/page54750.html
- Agency workers can find out more about the rights they are entitled to by visiting www.direct.gov.uk/payandworkrights or by calling the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.
- A vulnerable worker is someone working in an environment where the risk of being denied employment rights is high and who does not have the capacity or means to protect themselves from that abuse.
- The Fair Employment Enforcement Board includes:
- Employment Relations Minister Lord Young (chairman)
- HM Revenue and Customs
- Employment Agency Standards inspectorate
- Health and Safety Executive
- Gangmasters Licensing Authority
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- Confederation of British Industry
- Trades Union Congress
- Federation of Small Businesses
- Citizens Advice