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Good work plan: enforcing employment rights

26 July 2019

One the main strands of the Government’s ongoing ‘Good work plan’ is to improve enforcement of employment rights for workers. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) believes that a key step in achieving this would be to create a single enforcement body to take over a number of the activities currently undertaken by the employment tribunal and seven other different government bodies.

Launching a consultation on the merits of creating such a new regulatory body, BEIS makes it clear that the main purpose of consolidating these enforcement activities is not simply cost saving. Its stated objectives are to:

  • Extend state enforcement of employment rights to include enforcement of holiday pay entitlements for vulnerable workers and to regulate umbrella companies operating in the agency worker market
  • Increase support to businesses to help them comply with employment law
  • Develop a more transparent and proportionate approach to enforcement so that businesses know where they stand
  • Integrate better with other enforcement partners.

The consultation envisages that the new enforcement body would take over responsibility for enforcement of:

  • National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (from HMRC)
  • Domestic regulations relating to employment agencies (from the Employment Agency Standard Inspectorate)
  • Licences to supply temporary labour in high risk sectors in agriculture and the fresh food supply chain (from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA))
  • Labour exploitation and modern slavery related to worker exploitation (from GLAA).

It would also take on responsibility for enforcement of holiday pay for vulnerable workers and the regulations for Umbrella companies. In the longer term, the consultation suggests that the new single body could also take on enforcement activities around Statutory Sick Pay, health and safety at work, Employment Tribunal awards and discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Is bigger better?

Having to deal with only one agency and for it to apply the “consistent approach, designed to respond effectively to the full spectrum of noncompliance” (ie standardised enforcement activities and penalties) as the consultation suggests may seem attractive. However, it may take some time for government to achieve such a transition and the risk of one body undertaking such a comprehensive role is that its processes become slower than under prior agencies.

Read the full consultation document.

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