The staffing industry has broadly welcomed the government’s move to create a new workers’ watchdog to protect the rights of UK workers. The step will see the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement combined into a single body.
“This introduction of a Single Enforcement Body (SEB) within BEIS is a step that APSCo welcomes and has been calling for as part of its engagement with BEIS and HMRC for some time now,” said Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at APSCo. “However, we will continue to reiterate the message in our initial consultation response that the Body should be driving better collaboration with HMRC to create more appropriate regulation of umbrella companies, particularly in light of the roll out of Off-Payroll. It is also crucial that this watchdog promotes strong supply chains with worker protection and a fair apportionment of regulatory burden and contractual risk.”
She continued: “While workers’ rights absolutely need to be protected, there are some more at risk than others. It’s important that in preventing the exploitation of workers, those less at risk of unfair employment practices aren’t disadvantaged due to a blanket approach to employment regulation.
“As we recover from the pandemic highly skilled contracting will become more important than ever to UK productivity. Therefore, it is critical that highly skilled, experienced contractors are clearly differentiated from vulnerable workers and agency workers, to avoid an unnecessary increase in regulation affecting the professional recruitment sector.”
Responding to the announcement, Kate Shoesmith, deputy CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), said: “It’s good to hear that the government is starting to move forward with its plan to create a single labour market enforcement body – something we have long asked for. This single body should encourage closer collaboration between the different strands of labour market enforcement and make it easier for workers to redress issues. The REC has also called for a similar one stop shop for umbrella companies.
“We hope government press on with this quickly,” she continues. “Merging the current enforcement bodies will be complex, and the new body will need to be properly resourced to work effectively. Government must also ensure the single body has the powers it needs to drive real change. We have offered to work with government on the detail of how these powers might be extended using our extensive insight from the frontline of the labour market. Recruiters want a robust and fair labour market where workers rights are protected and compliant businesses can thrive. We look forward to working with the new single enforcement body on ensuring best practice and clamping down on abuses.”