Government announces new measures to protect UK workers

The Government will also consult on introducing a new criminal offence to tackle unscrupulous employers who subject vulnerable migrant workers to illegal working conditions and pay.

The proposals are put forward in two consultations published today on reforming recruitment sector legislation and tackling exploitation in the labour market.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “To ignore the pool of talent in the UK wastes the potential of British people who want the dignity of a job and the security of a pay cheque.

“This one nation government is committed to making sure our economy delivers for people who want to work hard and get on in life.

“We will also protect migrant workers who are duped into working in the UK and then exploited by rogue businesses. Their unscrupulous practices undercut firms who play by the rules.”

Minister for Immigration James Brokenshire said: “We will make Britain a fairer, and safer place for employees by introducing new and improved protections for workers.

“A new Director of Labour Market Enforcement and reforms to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority sends a clear message that we are committed to protecting employees and bringing rogue operators to justice.

“I want to send a clear message to workers, we will pass new laws to protect you, and we will enforce them.”

The recruitment sector plays an important role in ensuring the labour market works effectively by helping people to find permanent and temporary work. These proposed changes strike a balance between removing burdens on employment agencies and retaining important protections for people who are looking for work. This includes stopping recruitment firms recruiting solely from other European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

The Labour Market consultation includes four proposals to build on the effectiveness of the current regime:

  • A new offence of aggravated breach of labour market legislation for the worst offenders
  • Police style powers and a wider remit for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), to enable it to tackle serious exploitation
  • A new Director of Labour Market Enforcement, to set priorities across enforcement bodies dealing with everything from criminal activity to payroll errors
  • Increased intelligence and data sharing between the existing enforcement bodies and also other bodies such as the National Crime Agency, police forces and local authorities to increase the targeting of enforcement.

The new offence will target those employers who deliberately, persistently and brazenly commit breaches of labour law, and fail to take remedial action. Being found guilty could lead to a custodial sentence.