The U.K. government has recently announced a plan to establish a government body to guard against worker exploitation including ensuring minimum wage, holiday and sick pay entitlements, addressing modern slavery, and identifying and sanctioning guilty companies which fall below the mark.
According to the Guardian,
The body would bring together three existing agencies into one enforcement body: the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement.
Workers’ rights advocates believe that millions in the U.K. are vulnerable to exploitation due to lack of state enforcement of accountability measures for guilty employers. Last year, news broke of clothing factor workers in Leicester, U.K. working under modern slavery conditions.
The Guardian quotes U.K. business minister, Paul Scully, on the planned initiative:
“We want this new body to act as a beacon for workers – somewhere they know they can go to blow the whistle on bad employers and employment practices. As we move to this new model, we will be talking directly to community groups and workers – particularly those who are vulnerable – to ensure they know who to call, and have trust that action will be taken where it needs to be.”
However, some are not so sure that it will be the panacea promised. U.K. Trade Union Congress (TUC) general secretary, Frances O’Grady, has her doubts about the plan: “[The] announcement is heavy on spin, but light on action. Rather than clamping down on bad bosses now, the government is today making an announcement with no plan to legislate to make it happen – and no new funding either.”
Indeed, the government has admitted that such a body would require legislative approval – which it has yet to seek – calling into question the timeline for its establishment. What this legislation looks like remains to be seen. What is clear is that accountability for U.K. companies is almost non-existent.
If the U.K. enacted mandatory human rights due diligence legislation, companies would be required to take preventative measures to ensure their supply chains and workplaces were free of modern slavery.
Join Freedom United’s campaign to call on governments to put people before profits by calling on the U.S., U.K., and E.U. to pass mandatory human rights due diligence legislation.