The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is to create a “powerful” new workers’ watchdog to protect the rights of UK workers in a bid to tackle modern slavery.
The new watchdog aims to 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.
It will be responsible for tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers, which is currently spread across three different bodies. The government is looking to create a “one-stop shop” bringing all under one roof to create what it calls a “comprehensive new authority” to improve enforcement through better coordination and pooling intelligence.
The 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.
In addition to enforcing all existing powers belonging to the three agencies, the new 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.
It will also continue the ‘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 pounds per worker.
Business Minister Paul Scully said in a statement: “This government has been absolutely clear that we will do whatever we can to protect and enhance workers’ rights. 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.”
The new enforcement body will be established through primary legislation “when parliamentary time allows,” added the government.