On Tuesday 8 June 2021, the government announced its plans to create a new enforcement body, which will offer better protection to workers’ rights in the UK. As part of an increased effort to clamp down on workplace abuse, the new watchdog will assume responsibility for dealing with issues such as modern slavery and enforcing minimum wage.
How does this differ from the existing approach?
At present, the responsibility for these issues is shared across three different bodies, with the government intending to bring each of these under one roof and create a new authority to deal with matters collectively. Naturally, this makes it easier for employees to report instances of unacceptable behaviour by their employers, as the point of contact for all issues becomes clearer and more accessible.
It is also hoped that this new approach will allow for more effective enforcement action, mainly due to improved coordination and the pooling of resources and intelligence. The three merging authorities are the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Standards Inspectorate and the HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement team.
What has sparked this change?
Following a series of eye-opening reports throughout 2020, many will feel that issues with worker exploitation in Leicester’s garment industry are the catalyst for this change.
These reports found that some workers were being paid wages as low as £2.50 per hour, which is significantly short of the UK’s National Minimum Wage. Inspections also found that working conditions were unsafe in many cases, with a lack of clear legislation in place to recognise and punish these issues.
Now that this new approach has been announced, it is likely that such industries will be placed under further scrutiny.
How should employers prepare for the introduction of the body?
To help businesses understand any newly introduced rules, the body will be providing guidance on best practice, which will be supported by further information from ACAS.
Thanks to this approach, fair and compliant businesses will receive the benefit of not being undercut by unscrupulous rival employers, who may not be treating their employees correctly or paying them an appropriate wage. While it remains to be seen how successful the government will be in achieving this, the intention behind it cannot be argued with.
In preparation for the change, it is imperative that employers are fully aware of their obligations towards their employees.
If you are unsure about how your existing business practices fare in relation to your obligations under employment law, AHR Consultants can help.