Protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation
08 June 2017
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) is the agency charged with protecting vulnerable workers from labour exploitation across the entire UK labour market.
The article starts off with a rather harsh but real question, “… what does someone who has been illegally trafficked into the UK, is then forced to live in squalor and is paid a pittance for working several hours every day, have in common with a worker who is not receiving holiday pay?”
The answer provided is that they are both being exploited for their labour.
The article goes on to talk about how the two scenarios are of course completely different; that the first is clearly a victim of modern slavery, a repugnant practice which is sadly increasing not just here in the UK but across the world, as criminals trade people as a commodity. And the second scenario is where a worker may believe he or she is being treated fairly, they may enjoy their job and it could come with all the rights and benefits you are entitled to working in the UK, however if they are not being paid what is rightfully theirs, whether that is holiday money or for services rendered, then they are a victim of labour exploitation.
The tragic deaths of 23 cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2004 focused the nation fully on the extreme costs of severe worker exploitation and as a result brought about new legislation that resulted in the creation of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
For more than decade the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) has sought to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers but their powers were limited and remit restricted to the fresh produce sector – agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and all associated processing and packaging.
Now, in direct response to the challenges and threat posed by modern slavery, they have been given sweeping new powers and a broadened remit to investigate all forms of labour exploitation - The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).
The have specialist officers with police-style powers of arrest to investigate forced labour and human trafficking. In addition to what they examine to ensure compliance with Licensing Standards, they will also be working with partners to look into Labour Market Enforcement to include offences such as failure to pay National Minimum Wage (NMW) and breaches of the Employment Agency Act.
The article goes on to identify a number of ploys used to exploit workers that the GLAA has uncovered:
Clocking in and out - employers who round down the time their employees clock in by a few minutes here and there. With hundreds of workers this soon adds up.
Labour providers taking hours off a time sheet - the worker may not notice or fail to query it because it might only happen occasionally. This also has a knock on effect for holiday pay because that is calculated by looking at the hours someone has worked.
Holiday pay - labour providers withholding this money by not paying out when they issue P45s or only reluctantly paying it if the employee requests it.
Holiday pots - where money is put in for each worker’s holiday pay but by the end of the year, when those workers have left or haven’t asked for any leave, the business pockets the money.
The GLAA say that whether you’re simply a worker in a factory or a labour provider, you have a moral and ethical responsibility to prevent people from being forced to work or from being exploited.
The full article is available to read here - Protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation. It provides advice for employees and also specific guidance that can help anyone spot the signs of labour exploitation.