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New single body to enforce employment rights

A new, single body could be created to enforce various existing employment rights.

While most employment rights are enforced by the individual via the employment tribunal system, the state does have a role to play. Currently, responsibility for enforcing/monitoring a number of statutory rights is split between various bodies, e.g. HMRC, the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate (EAS), and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA). The Director of Labour Market Enforcement also has statutory/strategic functions. This new proposal, drawing on the Good Work Plan, would bring the functions of all these bodies under one Labour Market Enforcement Body.

Among the benefits the government sees a single body providing are a strong, recognisable single brand; better support for businesses; pooled intelligence; more effective use of resources; and co-ordinated enforcement action.

The consultation (which runs until 6 October 2019) proposes the following:

  • Core remit: to take over HMRC enforcement of the minimum wage, the work of the EAS and the GLAA, as well as the strategy/information functions of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement
  • Wider role: the consultation also suggests that the new body:
    • could take on the role that HMRC and DWP play as regards statutory sick pay (see also ‘Proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss')
    • could plug some of the gaps in the existing enforcement tools and approach available to the EHRC
    • could have a role in enforcing unpaid tribunal awards, as well as taking on the BEIS penalty scheme (government fining of employers for late payment of awards)
    • does not take over the role of the HSE (as the government believes this would not make any tangible improvement to the effectiveness of health and safety enforcement). However, while the HSE is responsible for various aspects of the Working Time Regulations 1998, the consultation proposes that the new body will have the power to enforce specific elements relating to annual leave for vulnerable workers
  • Compliance: the new body could support compliance by:
    • increasing awareness of employment rights and how employers should comply with the law by providing co-ordinated guidance and support across all areas enforced by the state, and
    • taking a more consistent, proportionate approach to breaches at the ‘lower harm’ end of the spectrum – with a focus on education and ‘nudge’ techniques such as warning letters, rather than penalties or formal enforcement action for minor first offences
  • Deterrence: the new body could deter breaches of employment rights by:
    • making it easier to raise a complaint by improving the ‘user journey’ - increasing the likelihood of non-compliance being reported and addressed
    • improving the ability to identify non-compliance through a single pool of resource that could be used more flexibly to respond to changing priorities and greater sharing of intelligence to improve the effectiveness of proactive enforcement, and
    • publicising breaches more effectively, through a consistent and more targeted approach