The government has announced proposals for a single labour market enforcement body which will have powers to enforce minimum wage and holiday payments and could also encompass workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying.
Millions of low-paid workers could receive the “largest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation” according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Business secretary Greg Clark said: “We have a labour market that we can be proud of with more people in work than ever before. But it’s right that hard-working people see their rights upgraded and are protected from exploitative practices, whilst ensuring we create a level playing field for the vast majority of businesses who comply with employment laws.”
Enforcement of rights
Clark also confirmed that Matthew Taylor, the man behind the independent Taylor Review of modern working practices, will become the interim director of Labour Market Enforcement on 1 August 2019. Sir David Metcalf retired from the role last month.
Currently, the director of Labour Market Enforcement is responsible for setting priorities for the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS), the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and the minimum wage enforcement team at HMRC.
“A new Single Labour Market Enforcement body will bring together our different enforcement partners putting all our expertise in one dedicated place, better protecting workers and enforcing their rights now and into the future,” added Clark.
“Matthew Taylor’s appointment as director of Labour Market Enforcement, the architect of our Good Work Plan, demonstrates our commitment to the largest upgrade in workers’ rights in a generation and preparing our labour market for the economy of the future.”
We welcome the government’s proposals and the recognition that tougher enforcement needs to go hand in hand with better support for businesses, many of which can fall foul of employment legislation unwittingly” – Peter Cheese, CIPD
Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: “The creation of a single enforcement body is an important step towards achieving better working lives for the UK’s most vulnerable workers. We welcome the government’s proposals and the recognition that tougher enforcement needs to go hand in hand with better support for businesses, many of which can fall foul of employment legislation unwittingly.”
The government today launched a consultation on the proposals for a new Single Labour Market Enforcement body saying it would create a strong, recognisable single brand and would make it easier for individuals to know where to go for help and make it easier to support businesses comply with the law.
The proposals include the body having consistent powers to enforce payment of the minimum wage, labour exploitation and modern slavery, along with holiday payments for vulnerable workers and safeguarding agency workers. The consultation, which closes on 6 October 2019, considers whether the body should also enforce workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying.
The consultation considers the case for a new single labour market enforcement body and whether this could deliver:
- extended state enforcement, enforcing holiday pay for vulnerable workers and regulating umbrella companies operating in the agency worker market
- a strong, recognisable single brand so individuals know where to go for help
- better support for businesses to comply with the rules
- co-ordinated enforcement action, with new sanctions to tackle the spectrum of non-compliance
- more flexible resourcing enabling greater sharing of intelligence
- closer working with other enforcement partners, including immigration enforcement, benefit fraud, health and safety, the Pensions Regulator and wider local authority enforcement.
Yvonne Gallagher, partner at law firm Harbottle and Lewis commented: “These are all highly worthy initiatives and Matthew Taylor is to be applauded for his perseverance in getting employment issues on to the agenda.
“However, the key issue is whether there is any political will to bring any of this to Parliament, given all else absorbing parliamentary time. To date, there has been no sign of any real engagement by Government with any of Mr Taylor’s numerous recommendations on the subject of employment rights and practices, pragmatic and sensible though they are.”
Acas chief executive Susan Clews, said: “There’s a recognition by the government that most businesses are following the law on workplace rights but that more needs to be done to help protect the most vulnerable from being exploited.
“Vulnerable workers are entitled to be treated fairly at work in accordance with the law. A strong enforcement arrangement can help ensure this happens by dealing with any abuse of these rights.
“We look forward to working with Matthew Taylor in his new role and the opportunity to offer our feedback to the government’s consultation.”
Taylor will continue his role as chief executive of the RSA.