The government is to create a new “workers’ watchdog” to tackle modern slavery, protect agency workers and enforce the minimum wage.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said that the new body would bring responsibility for the three different areas, currently spread across three different bodies – the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement – under one roof to create a new authority.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), construction is second only to domestic work in terms of the risk it presents for forced labour, with 18% of all forced labour victims working in construction.
The new watchdog will also provide a single port of call for workers which the government said would make it easier for workers to know their rights and blow the whistle on bad behaviour.
The body will provide guidance on companies’ obligations to staff and BEIS pledged an increase in enforcement.
In addition to existing powers of the three agencies, the new body will also have the ability to ensure vulnerable workers get the holiday pay and statutory sick pay they are entitled to without having to go through an employment tribunal process.
The plans, confirmed in a consultation response to be published today (8 June). BEIS said the new enforcement body will be established through primary legislation “when parliamentary time allows”.
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.”