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UK Director of Labour Market Enforcement to Take On Exploitative Employers

UK Director of Labour Market Enforcement to Take On Exploitative Employers

Fair Employment Policies

The UK director of labour market enforcement, Sir David Metcalf, has pledged to tackle workplace exploitation, stating that he will be making full use of powers to prosecute exploitative employers.

Sir David was appointed to tackle the rise in workplace exploitation, seen in companies such as Sports Direct – which was found to have been failing to pay their employees the national minimum wage.

Margot James, a minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, reported earlier this year that in the 2016-2017 tax year, HMRC found that 98,150 low-paid workers had been underpaid £10.9m in minimum wage shortfalls.

In addition, a study by Middlesex University found that British workers lose almost £3bn each year in holiday and unpaid wages, with 44% of employees experiencing late wage payments.

Sir David noted: “While the UK is by and large a fair and safe place to work, there are still rogue employers who exploit their workers and undercut honest businesses. This will not go unpunished.”

Cracking down on exploitation

In his introductory report, Sir David stated that he would be setting strategic priorities for the government’s three key enforcement agencies: The Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS), HMRC’s National Minimum Wage (NMW) enforcement team, and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

Sir David claimed that he will be focusing on tackling illegal business practices by implementing labour market enforcement undertakings and orders – enforcing prison sentences for serious or repeat offenders, ensuring that company supply chains do not breach labour laws and by reviewing the effectiveness of current labour market enforcement efforts.

Commenting on his new plans for combating workplace exploitation, Sir David said:

“Tackling labour market abuses is an important priority for the government and I am encouraged it has committed record funds to cracking down on exploitation. Over the coming months I will be working with government enforcement agencies and industry bodies to better identify and punish the most serious and repeat offenders taking advantage of vulnerable workers and honest businesses.”

Bosses are ‘escaping punishment’ under current regulations claims Green Party MP

Under the current Conservative legislation, bosses have been ‘escaping punishment’ for failing to pay employees the national minimum wage, claimed Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas.

The ‘self-correction’ policy has seen an increase in workers being paid the money they are legally owed by employers (amounting to £6m in 2016), the policy also sees that firms avoid fines, prosecution, and often being named and shamed.

The Green Party MP said: “Though it’s good to see an increase in the number of workers being repaid the money they deserve, it is extremely worrying to see so many firms escaping any punishment for underpaying employees. If firms know they can self-correct without any punishment we could see an increase in the number of firms attempting to underpay, without the risk of incurring a penalty. Such a cheaters’ charter would be utterly unacceptable.”

Arrests already made

Sarah Newton, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, praised Sir David’s introductory report: “I welcome the director’s introductory report which recognises the importance of a collaborative approach across enforcement agencies. The new powers are working, multiple arrests have already been made, including for modern slavery offences, and I am confident that GLAA officers will continue to disrupt the unscrupulous criminals who exploit the most vulnerable,” she said.

Educating employees

However, Charles Cotton, performance and reward adviser at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, argues that the current figures on employee exploitation call for employee education, claiming that employees should be made aware of their rights on pay and treatment by their employer.

He said: “The CIPD is calling on the government to fund a know-your-rights campaign aimed at low-paid workers so that they know what they are entitled to.”

Creating fair employment policies

Our Employment team provides advice on the employment aspects of all major business decisions including the creation of fair employment policies. For advice, please contact our experienced employment lawyers today on 03456 381381 or email enquiries@ibblaw.co.uk.