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Kerry Eastman

HR Advisor - Uckfield

16th September 2021

Watchdog: Government to protect worker rights via new ‘one-stop-shop’ service

Watchdog: Government to protect worker rights via new ‘one-stop-shop’ service

On Tuesday, 8 June 2021, the Government confirmed the creation of a powerful new watchdog to protect the rights of UK workers. The new workers’ watchdog is designed to enhance worker rights as it will provide a single, recognisable point of contact for workers to verify their rights and allow the reporting of bad behaviour.

The three bodies currently addressing modern slavery (Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority), the enforcement of minimum wage (HMRC’s National Minimum Wage) and protecting agency workers (Employment Agency Standards) will soon combine creating a new ‘one-stop-shop’ approach to help improve enforcement. In addition, the new body is set to ensure workers receive the holiday pay and statutory sick pay they’re entitled to without going through a tribunal process.

Its aim is to support businesses in doing the right thing and, alternatively, to clamp down on any businesses who abuse workers’ rights, taking action as appropriate.

The new workers’ watchdog will continue to ‘name and shame’ businesses that fail to pay workers what they’re owed, including workers employed through agencies or by gangmasters in the agricultural sector (with fines of up to £20,000.00 per worker).

The Government are also set to explore other ways to target abuse of worker rights in the garment (clothing) sector. This comes after an investigation by The Sunday Times reported that workers in the garment sector were paid as little as £3.50 an hour and were forced to work in unsafe conditions and without PPE, despite the transmission risk posed by the Coronavirus. Those businesses that don’t improve their working conditions could see a ban implemented on the sale of goods from their factories.

Once rolled out, the Government will provide guidance on best practice through its usual authorities such as Acas. We’re yet to hear more details on the new body, including when it’s likely to be active. That said, employers should review their own practices on a regular basis to ensure they’re complying with workers’ rights and to avoid hefty fines.

Over the last year the Government has taken a range of steps to crack down on worker abuse and protect worker rights, including:

  • Extending the National Living Wage to 23 and 24 year olds;
  • Enabling workers to carry over annual leave due to the pandemic;
  • Increasing the reference period used to calculate holiday pay ie: 52 weeks;
  • Protecting the earnings of furloughed workers who utilise statutory family pay entitlements;
  • Implementing ‘Jack’s Law’, which provides statutory leave for parents who suffer the devastating loss of a child; and
  • Implementing the Good Work Plan.

Do you need help to ensure your workers have the right protection? Say no more, the GatekeeperHR team is here to help. GatekeeperHR is a fixed cost, employment law and HR retainer service which provides businesses with access to a dedicated team of experienced lawyers and HR professionals who you can speak to, or meet face-to-face, at any time. The service includes a full HR compliance audit, access to an online portal full of valuable employment law and HR resources and an annual training session on topics of your choosing. To find out more about GatekeeperHR, please contact Rix & Kay’s Employment Team or call 01825 744413.

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