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Workplace Rights (Compliance and Enforcement Review)

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 10 July 2012

In October 2010, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change announced to the House that the Government would examine how workplace rights are enforced and identify if Government’s enforcement activities could be streamlined. I am reporting our conclusions to the House.

Our review focused on the recruitment sector, Gangmaster licensing, enforcement of the national minimum wage and Government enforced aspects of the working time regulations. In October 2011 we reported our interim conclusions that there is a diverse range of enforcement powers corresponding to each agency. But, from the perspective of workers this range of powers and approaches has been aligned in a coherent way by the pay and work rights helpline.

In October 2011, we said that we would focus on ensuring that we do not have any unnecessary employment regulations. We also said we would examine if there are benefits to establishing a single Fair Employment Agency to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. Since we last updated the House, the red tape challenge has examined all of the regulations in scope of the review of workplace rights, compliance and enforcement.

Following the red tape challenge, we announced that we would consult on reforming the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 and the Employment Agencies Act 1973, legislation which regulates the recruitment sector. This is an important part of our economy that supports the functioning of our flexible labour market. Our consultation will be launched later this autumn. The red tape challenge process also identified improvements to the way in which the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) operates. I draw the House’s attention to the written ministerial statement of 24 May 2012, Official Report, column 83WS by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs, about the GLA. The Government’s response to the Löfstedt review sets out the work in hand to further improve the effectiveness of the heath and safety regulatory framework.

We have looked at how our current enforcement agencies operate and if establishing a single Fair Employment Agency would benefit workers or reduce the burden on the taxpayer. We have concluded that a single agency would not provide significant benefits to workers. By having enforcement agencies focused on specific areas we have a well functioning, risk based system within the UK. This approach, in conjunction with the pay and work rights helpline, means that workers can easily access any agency through a single number and receive the specialist advice and support they need.