Earlier this month, as part of their efforts to protect workers’ rights the UK government announced the creation of a workers’ watchdog to protect the rights of UK workers. The group’s main goal will be to clamp down on workplace abuse across all industries, by tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and providing protection for agency workers. Once set up, they will act as a ‘one stop shop’, bringing together three different regulatory bodies into one powerful entity. The extensive plans will bring together the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement to create a single enforcement body.
The creation of this body will be very encouraging for workers in all industries as it will effectively enhance their rights by providing a single, recognisable port of call for workers so they know their rights and can take action against bad behaviour.
The body will support businesses to do the right thing by their employees by providing guidance on their obligations to staff. Meanwhile, increased enforcement will make sure good businesses aren’t undercut by unscrupulous rival employers who aren’t paying or treating their workers correctly.
As well as 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. Essentially its objective is to tackle and eradicate exploitative behaviour in employment.
As with previous measures, there will be no right to privacy for businesses who fall foul of the watchdog rules and government confirms that “naming and shaming” is to be expected. This will be especially worrying for big brands who have been the subject of criticism for the treatment of their workers in the past, particularly those in the fast fashion sector which is a key area of concern for government.
We await further details about the watchdog, including what it will be called and when it is likely to be set up. However, sensible employers should review their own practices ahead of time to avoid being caught out.