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Volume 715: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the report by Oxfam entitled Who Cares? about protecting United Kingdom care workers from exploitation; and whether they will extend the responsibilities of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to cover the care sector. [HL541]

Workers in the care sector, as elsewhere, benefit from a legal framework of minimum workplace protections including the right to the national minimum wage, the right not to have to work more than an average of 48 hours each week, and health and safety safeguards. Employment agencies also have to comply with employment agency regulations, which are enforced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' (BIS's) Employment Agency Standards (EAS) Inspectorate. The EAS responds to all complaints, and carries out targeted, risk-based inspections. It has powers to prosecute in the civil courts, and the power to prohibit people from running employment agencies for up to 10 years.

Last year, the Government launched a £6 million, three-year information campaign to make sure that vulnerable workers are aware of their rights and of how to report abuses. As part of this work, BIS recently launched the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368. It combines the functions of five previous helplines, making it easier for vulnerable workers to report bad treatment at work, and for government to respond. Where there is evidence of care workers suffering abuse, it should be reported to the new helpline.

The Government have no current plans to extend the responsibilities of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.