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New Watchdog Launched to Protect Workers' Rights

New Watchdog Launched to Protect Workers' Rights
08 June 2021
 

The government is to create a body to reduce workplace abuse and modern slavery in the UK.

The new workers’ watchdog is to take over responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing minimum wage, improving enforcement and ensuring employees and businesses know where to go for help on workers’ rights.

The government’s plans will see the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement combined to create a single enforcement body, established through primary legislation.

 

"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."

–Paul Scully

Business Minister

 

Supporting Whistleblowing 

 

The new watchdog will enhance workers’ rights by providing a single, recognisable port of call for workers so they know their rights and can blow the whistle on bad behaviour.

The body will support businesses to do the right thing by their employees by providing guidance on their obligations to staff. Meanwhile, increased enforcement will make sure good businesses aren’t undercut by unscrupulous rival employers who aren’t paying or treating their workers correctly.

 

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Holiday and Sick Pay

 

The body will have a new ability to ensure vulnerable workers get the holiday pay and statutory sick pay they are entitled to – without having to go through a lengthy employment tribunal process.

Business Minister Paul Scully said: "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."

 

Jack's Law for Bereaved Parents

 

The plans are part of the government’s wider efforts to protect workers’ rights. Since last year, the government has boosted the minimum wage for around two million employees and brought Jack’s Law into force, a world-first, which gives statutory leave for parents who suffer the devastating loss of a child.

The new body will continue the successful Naming and Shaming scheme, which calls out companies who fail to pay workers what they are owed and can hit rogue employers with fines of up to £20,000 per worker. This enforcement activity will be extended to cover other regulations protecting the pay of workers employed through agencies or by gangmasters in the agricultural sector.

 

Targeting Abuse in the Garment Sector

 

The government will also explore further measures to target abuses in the garment sector specifically, following reports of serious problems in the industry. Options being examined include creating a Garment Trade Adjudicator to investigate companies’ supply chains, or extending the licencing scheme that currently covers employers in the agricultural sector. Under the scheme, businesses who provide workers for agriculture and the fresh produce supply chain must apply for a license to operate in the sectors, and are subject to inspections to ensure they meet employment standards required by law.

Picture: a photograph of an empty office showing a row of desks and chairs

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 08 June 2021

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