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UK government launches initiative to tackle supply chain labour exploitation

Published
Jul 25, 2017
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The government is increasing efforts to end exploitation in the workplace as it vows to jail worst offenders and review the effectiveness of current enforcement practices.



Director of Labour Market Enforcement Sir David Metcalf, the official tasked with overseeing the government crackdown, has launched a consultation on how to make full use of powers to ensure large employers do not breach labour market laws.

He will be working with HMRC’s National Minimum Wage enforcement team, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate to better tackle illegal practices, such as underpaying minimum wage or breaking modern slavery laws.

He said he will look at the cleaning, construction and fashion sectors in particular, where workers in supply chains are often exploited and underpaid.

“Tackling labour market abuses is an important priority for the government and I am encouraged it has committed record funds to cracking down on exploitation,” said Sir David Metcalf.

“Over the coming months I will be working with government enforcement agencies and industry bodies to better identify and punish the most serious and repeat offenders taking advantage of vulnerable workers and honest businesses.”

The report is published as new figures reveal that HMRC’s enforcement teams identified a record £10.9 million in back pay for 98,150 of the UK’s lowest paid workers in 2016 to 2017.

Businesses who failed to pay workers at least the legal minimum wage were also fined £3.9 million, with employers in hospitality and retail sectors among the most prolific offenders.

“While the majority of employers create a fair and safe environment for their workers, there are a small minority of rogue employers who break the law and we will use all enforcement measures at our disposal to crack down on labour market abuses,” said Business Minister Margot James.

The government crackdown comes after an investigation from the Guardian exposed illegal working practices in Sports Direct’s Derbyshire warehouse last year.

Debenhams and Peacocks have been also named and shamed by the government earlier this year for underpaying staff.

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