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Experts working on labour exploitation meet UK Director of Labour Market Enforcement

July 25, 2017

This week, the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG) met with the Director of Labour Market Enforcement, Sir David Metcalf, to discuss his forthcoming strategy for labour market enforcement.

The meeting took place in the week of the launch of the Director’s introductory report on labour market enforcement.[1] The report will form the basis for consultations ahead of the Director’s first full labour market strategy set to be published later this year.[2]

Ahead of the formal consultation, LEAG shared their expertise with the Director. LEAG was established by Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) and brings together experts from migrant community organisations, trade unions, anti-trafficking and homelessness organisations to share knowledge and ensure that the needs and experiences of vulnerable workers inform UK responses to trafficking for labour exploitation.

The Director for Labour Market Enforcement is tasked with setting the strategic priorities for the government’s labour market enforcement agencies: HMRC’s National Minimum Wage (NMW) enforcement team; the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA); and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS).

A key concern raised by LEAG members was the lack of accessible remedies for victims of labour exploitation. The waiting time for complex cases to be investigated by HMRC’s NMW enforcement team was cited as a barrier. LEAG members also highlighted fees and lack of enforcement of rulings as obstacles for vulnerable migrant workers to access employment tribunals.

LEAG members have previously highlighted the relationship between labour abuses and exploitation and emphasised the need for the Director to review the prevalence of non-compliance in the UK labour market with a view to prevent exploitation. In the meeting, the Director highlighted the low likelihood of firms being inspected by the HMRC as a potential concern, with the agency currently investigating about 2000 cases a year in a labour market where 1.3 million employers have employees.

Recognising the crucial role of labour inspection in the prevention of labour exploitation, FLEX has consistently called for adequately resourced enforcement agencies.[3]

The Director is now consulting stakeholders and is seeking views on the issues set out in his introductory report.

[1] The full report can be accessed here.

[2] Further details about the consultation can be found here.

[3] For more information on proactive labour inspections read FLEX’s policy blueprint Combatting Labour Exploitation through Labour Inspection.