UK government plans to launch watchdog for employees’ rights

The UK government has announced that it plans to launch a new workers’ watchdog to protect the rights of UK employees.

The responsibilities of the new single body will include tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency staff, which are currently spread across three different bodies.

According to the government, it has been looking into either creating a garment trade adjudicator to investigate companies’ supply chains or extending an agricultural licensing scheme. Under the scheme, businesses that provide agricultural workers must have a license and can be inspected to make sure they are meeting employment standards.

The government warned it could introduce harsher measures such as bans on goods made in factories where workers have been underpaid in order to target the garment sector if brands’ behaviour does not improve.

Online fashion retailer Boohoo received criticism recently after concerns were raised that employees at its Leicester factories were being underpaid at £3.50 an hour and were not protected against Covid-19 (Coronavirus) during the pandemic. It was alleged last year that the company’s working conditions did not meet Coronavirus guidelines.

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Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, explained that the success of the new body will hinge on whether it receives sufficient resources to do its job.

He said: “For the new body to be a true game changer it also needs to have a much stronger focus on supporting employers – particularly small firms – to comply with employment law. It should also help reinforce the individual enforcement of employment rights through the employment tribunal system and should take full responsibility for taking action against employers that fail to pay compensation to workers awarded by the courts.”