Government proposes single enforcement body to improve employee protections

A consultation is seeking views on how a new enforcement body should operate in practice.  

As an extension of their Good Work Plan, the government has proposed the formation of a single labour market enforcement body to ensure employees’ rights are protected at work.

The government has suggested that a new enforcement body could provide additional support to at risk individuals by introducing a single strong recognisable brand, which combines the responsibilities and knowledge of other pre-existing bodies.

Through extended enforcement action the government hope to specifically regulate organisations who fail to comply with holiday pay requirements as well as those that operate in the agency worker market. 

There are also plans to provide additional support to organisations by way of coordinated guidance and communications campaigns, thereby reducing any knowledge gaps, especially given the influx of new requirements scheduled for April 2020 as part of the Good Work Plan.

As well as seeking public opinions on the above aspects, the consultation also asks participants to give their views on:

  • The core remit of any new body
  • The interaction with other areas of enforcement
  • The approach to compliance
  • The powers such a body would need.

Currently various aspects of employment rights are government by a number of enforcement bodies, such as National Minimum Wage disputes (HM Revenue and Customs), labour exploitation (Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority) and workplace discrimination (Equality and Human Rights Commission) .

Whilst each of these bodies plays a role in responding to complaints and tackling non-compliance the government feel that a single uniformed approach may streamline the process and prevent continued worker exploitation. They also state that introducing a new approach to enforcement will allow them to respond more effectively to the changing nature of work.

The consultation is made up of several questions, covering a number of topics. Amongst other things, individuals are asked for their opinions on the benefits and risks of a single enforcement body, whether this body should have a role in providing advice and if enforcement should focus on both compliance and deterrence in equal measure.  

It will be interesting to examine the government’s response to this consultation, which will close on 6 October 2019.  Whilst organisations may be concerned about the prospect of a new enforcement body bringing greater scrutiny to their ongoing practices, there are suggestions the body could be more effective in providing support and ensure they do not fall foul of legislation in the first place.

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