The Department for Business has recently published the Employment Agency Standards (EAS) Inspectorate Annual Report for 2007-08. The report is available on the BERR website at: http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file49464.pdf. I have today placed copies of this report in the Libraries of both Houses.
The report sets out the main activities of the EAS during the year, including information about agencies prosecuted for breaches of employment agency legislation and prohibitions of individuals unsuitable to be involved in the running of an employment agency. In 2007-08 two agencies were prosecuted successfully and a total of five individuals were prohibited from running agencies.
In addition, the EAS recovered over £26,000 of workers’ wages that had been illegally withheld. In the period since the end of March 2008, the EAS has recovered a further £21,900 for agency workers. The EAS investigated a total of 1,494 agencies during the course of 2007-08.
We have doubled the number of EAS inspectors during 2008. This will enable the EAS to carry out a greater proportion of proactive inspections. Over recent months, we have also started to transform the operations of EAS, through running monthly large-scale, targeted investigations and giving more publicity to the warnings that we issue to non-compliant businesses. And we have launched a significant campaign to raise the profile of EAS, starting with a “Know your Rights” booklet for agency workers (available from the www.direct.gov.uk website).
In addition, changes made in the Employment Act 2008 will—from April this year—enable the most serious criminal offences under the Employment Agencies Act 1973 to be tried in the Crown Court (where the maximum penalty will be an unlimited fine). They will also give EAS inspectors improved investigative powers, including the power to seek financial information about an agency suspected of committing offences from the agency’s bank.
The EAS will use its additional resources and powers to ensure that agency workers are fairly treated and to ensure that the law is obeyed.