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Slavery experts ‘deeply concerned’ at plans to water down UK labour inspection

January 12, 2016

In response to the announcement that the Government plans to reform the powers, function and scope of the Gangmaster’s Licensing Authority (GLA), Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) today expressed ‘serious concerns’. The reforms are proposed as part of the Government’s response to its consultation on ‘Tackling Exploitation in the Labour Market’. FLEX believes the plans threaten the GLA’s excellent licensing function and risk weakening the authority at a crucial time in the fight against modern slavery.

While FLEX has been calling for the extension of the GLA for some time, it is extremely concerned that the proposed expansion will be insufficiently resourced to allow the labour inspection agency to operate effectively. 

FLEX Policy Director, Caroline Robinson, said: 

“FLEX has serious concerns about these plans, just 19% of respondents to this consultation supported a move to ‘flexible’ licensing and yet the Government is proceeding regardless. The response also makes no commitment to increase resources in line with increasing responsibilities.’

She added: 

“Despite the widespread support for the GLA’s existing work, the government has today placed licensing under threat.  At a time when modern slavery is increasing, this move will seriously undermine the GLA’s ability to prevent and detect labour exploitation in the UK”. 

The GLA currently operates a successful licensing and inspection system, that has raised employment standards in the labour sectors it covers and has prevented the exploitation of workers by unscrupulous businesses.   The newly reformed GLA will be called the ‘Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority’. 


Notes to Editors

1. Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) works to end trafficking for labour exploitation. To achieve this FLEX promotes responses to trafficking for labour exploitation that are rights-based, victim-centred and founded on prevention rather than cure. See

2. The Government consultation on ‘Tackling Exploitation in the Labour Market’ ran from 13 October – 7 December 2015, received 93 responses from industry, trade unions and NGOs. Only 19% of respondents agreed to the Government’s proposal for a more flexible approach to licensing. The full Government consultation response is available here:

3. FLEX’s submission to the Government consultation is available here:

4. The Gangmaster’s Licensing Authority (GLA) labour provider licensing scheme regulates businesses that provide workers to the fresh produce supply chain and horticulture industry, to make sure they meet the employment standards required by law.  See: