- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
The government has warned rogue bosses that it plans to impose tough measures on large employers’ supply chains that breach labour market laws, particularly those in the fashion, construction and cleaning sectors.
Director of Labour Market Enforcement Sir David Metcalf, who was appointed in January to oversee a government crackdown on exploitation in the workplace by setting the strategic priorities for the government’s three enforcement agencies: HMRC’s National Minimum Wage (NMW) enforcement team, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, has said that the government agencies plan to identify and punish serious and repeat offenders.
In his introductory report, Metcalf revealed that he would work with government enforcement agencies to use powers which carry a maximum two-year prison sentence for serious labour market offences, as well as consult worker and business representatives on how best to tackle exploitation linked to large employers’ supply chain such as those found in the fashion industry, and to review the effectiveness of current labour market enforcement efforts.
Metcalf stated: “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.”
Government vows to tackle labour market abuses
The report is published alongside this year’s National Minimum and Living Wage enforcement statistics. The figures show in 2016/17 HMRC’s enforcement teams identified a record 10.9 million pounds in back pay for 98,150 of the UK’s lowest paid workers – a 69 percent increase on those helped last year.
Businesses who failed to pay workers at least the legal minimum wage were also fined 3.9 million pounds, with employers in the retail and hospitality sectors among the most prolific offenders, said the government.
Business Minister Margot James said: “This government is firmly on the side of hard-working people and we are determined to stamp out any workplace exploitation, from minimum wage abuses to modern slavery.
“While the majority of employers create a fair and safe environment for their workers, there are a small minority of rogue employers who break the law and we will use all enforcement measures at our disposal to crack down on labour market abuses.”
This is part of the government’s latest response to workplace scandals uncovered at companies including retailer Sports Direct, which was paying its staff less than the minimum wage, and even Asos, who were accused of poor working conditions at its warehouse in South Yorkshire that it firmly refuted.