The Government has announced that it is creating a new watchdog in order to protect the rights of UK workers and clamp down on workplace abuse.
This single enforcement body will have responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers. At present, this is handled by three separate governmental bodies.
By bringing all of this under the jurisdiction of one body, the Government has stated this will ultimately improve enforcement through better co-ordination and pooling intelligence.
The Government have further said that this will also protect good employers by ensuring they are not undercut by unscrupulous, rival employers who may not be paying staff correctly.
This body will also mean workers can circumvent an employment tribunal process when receiving the holiday pay and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) they are entitled to.
It will also provide guidance on best practice, complementing the work already carried out by existing authorities such as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). This will entail building links with vulnerable workers or at risk groups to make sure they have the support needed.
The Government have suggested that this new plan falls under a wider scheme to protect workers’ rights which has been occurring over the last year.
Business Minister Paul Scully said:
This government has been absolutely clear that we will do whatever we can to protect and enhance workers’ rights.
The vast majority of businesses want to do right by their staff, but there are a minority who seem to think the law doesn’t apply to them. Exploitative practices like modern slavery have no place in society.
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 Government is also currently examining the next steps needed to tackle abuses in the garment industry. Options include creating a Garment Trade Adjudicator to investigate companies’ supply chains or introducing harsher measures which would ban goods made in factories where workers have been underpaid.
Kate Shoesmith, Deputy CEO of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), responded to the news of the new watchdog:
It’s good to hear that the government is starting to move forward with its plan to create a single labour market enforcement body – something we have long asked for. This single body should encourage closer collaboration between the different strands of labour market enforcement and make it easier for workers to redress issues.
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.