Employment Rights – Government publishes proposals to protect vulnerable workersMonday, August 18th, 2008
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has published a Report that describes the conclusions reached by the Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum.
The Forum was established in June 2007 to look at the nature of employment rights abuses, assess the effectiveness of the current enforcement arrangements, and identify possible improvements. Its members are drawn from the TUC and other unions, government enforcement bodies, Citizens Advice, and business representatives.
Key enforcement issues identified by the Forum are:
- low awareness of rights and how to enforce them among vulnerable workers
- vulnerable worker reluctance to report problems or, in some cases, knowledge of how to do so
- a confusing enforcement picture with different government agencies enforcing different rights
- the low profile of some of the enforcement bodies.
The following is a summary of the key elements of the government’s response to these issues and other enforcement issues raised in the Forum.
Raising awareness of basic employment rights
Starting this year, the government will run a high-profile campaign to raise awareness of basic employment rights and to encourage the reporting of abuses. Key elements of the campaign will be
- the promotion of a single enforcement helpline
- an enhanced basic rights section on www.direct.gov
- significantly more publicity for the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate
- publicity for the new national minimum wage penalties and “fair arrears” provisions, included in the current Employment Bill
- more awareness-raising work with migrant workers, both in the UK and in those countries from which most workers come
- addressing workers’ fears of reporting abuses.
Streamlining vulnerable worker access to the enforcement bodies
Vulnerable worker access to the enforcement arrangements for basic employment rights is complicated because five separate bodies are involved, each with its own helpline.
|Enforcement body||Rights and legislation enforced|
|HM Revenue and Customs||National Minimum Wage|
|Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)||Agricultural Minimum Wage|
|Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate||Employment agency standards|
|Gangmasters Licensing Authority||Gangmaster licensing standards|
|Health and Safety Executive||Health and safety and working time|
A single telephone gateway to the enforcement bodies will be established, through which vulnerable workers will be able to report abuses and gain access to information and advice about their employment rights. Operators will also be trained to identify abuses needing investigation by more than one enforcement agency. The objective is to transfer the burden of navigating the system of enforcement from the vulnerable worker to the system itself.
Closer working between the enforcement bodies
To ensure closer working between the enforcement bodies, a Fair Employment Enforcement Board will be established, comprising the Employment Relations Minister, the enforcement bodies themselves, independent members from the CBI, TUC, Citizens Advice and others, to oversee the development of the new telephone gateway and ensure that arrangements are in place for effective collaboration on multi-issue investigations. Legislation will also be introduced in due course to remove the barriers that current prevent some of the enforcement agencies passing on relevant information to each other.
Improved advice and guidance for business
To assist employers to comply with their obligations, the government will
- bring together all of the current employment law guidance on the businesslink.gov website
- provide a single telephone gateway for employers who need advice about the national minimum wage, working time and other compliance matters.
Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum – Final Report and Government Conclusions
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