The CIPP policy and research team discuss the continuing developments albeit no firm implementation timeline yet exists
In 2018, the government published the Good Work Plan (http://bit.ly/2mQkLDY) setting out a vision for the future of the labour market, including plans for implementing recommendations of the Taylor Review of Modern Workplace Practices (http://bit.ly/2mf2sIf). Amongst other things, the Good Work Plan recognised the fundamental role that enforcement plays in ensuring workers actually receive their rights.
In July 2019, a consultation (http://ow.ly/fcYj30rOvvZ) launched exploring the possibility of combining the three current market enforcement bodies: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) National Minimum Wage Enforcement, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate. The move will create one instantly recognisable brand helping employers and workers to know where to go for guidance and advice, ensuring vulnerable workers receive the money to which they are entitled.
The new single enforcement body will be responsible for combatting breaches relating to:
the national minimum wage (NMW)
modern slavery (with focus on the requirement for larger businesses to publish an annual modern slavery statement)
holiday pay for vulnerable workers, and
statutory sick pay (SSP).
Additionally, focus will be placed on the regulation of umbrella companies – an area that we have frequently seen discussed in the media over the past few months and years.
Alongside protecting workers, it is hoped that the single enforcement body will create a more level playing field for businesses that comply with the law, with a clear focus placed on tackling non-compliance and targeting unscrupulous employers.
Historically, the different departments have not worked collaboratively, but this was unintentional. By bringing the different knowledge and expertise from the different teams together, this should lead to a more co-ordinated approach to enforcement. It will also mean that data can be shared between departments more effectively.
Fast forward to June 2021, and the government released its response to the consultation (http://ow.ly/8zPO30rOfqL). This confirms that the single enforcement body will be created.
The consultation response confirms that there will be four key elements to activities that the single enforcement body will undertake:
Guidance – The body will assist employers in meeting their legal obligations and will be on hand to provide detailed technical advice on any relevant topics.
Sharing of knowledge and data – By combining the forces of the teams, this will ensure that non-compliance can be spotted, and subsequently sorted, at a much earlier stage.
One single brand – Workers and employers will know where they can go to seek advice or to report bad practice.
Enhanced powers – The single enforcement body will have enhanced powers, and the authority to enforce SSP and holiday pay. New powers will also be awarded to tackle non-compliance.
Some of the practices that are already carried out will continue, such as the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS’s) naming and shaming scheme, which publicly names businesses that have breached NMW rules. Undoubtedly, with enhanced data and knowledge sharing, the single enforcement body will have the ability to identify breaches more efficiently, hopefully encouraging more employers to pay their staff correctly. The body will have the ability to issue civil penalties that match current NMW breach charges – typically, 200% of the underpaid salary, ranging from anything between £100 and £20,000 per worker.
Whilst we have confirmation that the single enforcement body will be created there is currently no launch date, and no estimated timeline has been provided. The official stance is that the body will be created when ’parliamentary time allows’. Many anticipated that it would be incorporated as part of a new Employment Bill, which was first referenced in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019. However, there was a distinct lack of reference to this new Bill in the Queen’s Speech that was delivered in May 2021.