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Gangmasters Licensing Authority to be moved to the Home Office

April 10, 2014

Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) has expressed concern that the Government’s decision to move the Gangmaster’s Licensing Authority into the Home Office may ultimately threaten its core monitoring and intelligence gathering function, and thereby limit its effectiveness in preventing labour exploitation.

FLEX recognises the potential benefits of the shift, in particular for resource sharing and expansion of the GLA remit, however is concerned that the GLA’s ability to monitor labour standards and gather information from workers will be hampered.  The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday suggests an intention to bring the GLA closer not only to law enforcement but also to immigration enforcement.  Claire Falconer, Legal Director of FLEX, said that:

“The GLA is widely recognised as a successful model for addressing labour exploitation.  This success is in large part due to the work that the GLA has done over the years to build the trust of migrant workers that allows them to gather intelligence on a range of exploitative practices. If the GLA ceases to be viewed as a labour inspectorate and is seen instead as an extended arm of law enforcement or border security, workers may no longer place trust in GLA officials, threatening its intelligence gathering function.”

FLEX has also pointed out that if the GLA’s limited resources are narrowly directed towards towards serious and organised crime, it will be restricted in performing its core license monitoring role, through which it prevents labour abuses from occurring. While the GLA has an important role to play in detecting serious crime such as forced labour and human trafficking, this should not be at the expense of monitoring basic labour standards.

“We need to be careful that a move to the Home Office does not mean less extreme exploitation is left to flourish.”

FLEX has noted that this move comes one day after the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill released its report, in which it recommended a review of the GLA, including its sponsoring department.  “It is curious that the Government would choose to make this move now, before it has considered or conducted the review recommended by the Joint Committee” Claire Falconer said.