Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
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Protecting workers and businesses

Protecting workers and businesses

DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, ENTERPRISE AND REGULATORY REFORM News Release (2008/256) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 5 November 2008

Business groups, unions and the government joined forces today for the first meeting of the Fair Employment Enforcement Board.

The Board will lead the fight to protect vulnerable workers from the minority of unscrupulous employers who exploit their staff and undercut their competitors.

Employment Relations Minister Pat McFadden said:

"Workers in the UK enjoy better rights than in the past, but there are still some unacceptable cases of rogue employers mistreating their staff.

"We must safeguard workers' rights and ensure unscrupulous employers cannot prey on those who are desperate to earn a living in difficult times.

"Denying workers basic rights on wages, leave and conditions is not only illegal, but cheats the majority of honest businesses. These practices must be stamped out."

The new Board brings together government enforcement bodies, unions, business leaders, and Citizens Advice to ensure effective enforcement of the law.

The Board's first activities will be to:

* Oversee the launch of a single enforcement helpline to report cases of mistreatment

* Oversee a significant and sustained campaign to raise workers' awareness of their basic employment rights

Also this week, the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate (EAS) has begun a campaign to inform agency workers of their rights.

An information booklet is being distributed to vulnerable workers and advice bodies, and is also available at

Richard Dunstan, Employment Policy Officer for Citizens Advice, said:

"Citizens Advice is delighted to join the Fair Employment Enforcement Board.

"A great many of the clients we see with employment problems are vulnerable workers, who face great difficulty in enforcing their rights and who will benefit greatly from the single telephone gateway to the enforcement bodies that the Board will oversee."

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

"The TUC's Commission on Vulnerable Employment found workers across the UK who are trapped in a continual round of low-paid and insecure work where mistreatment is the norm.

"Many, including agency workers and home workers, do not enjoy their proper legal rights including the minimum wage, working time limits and paid holidays.

"We welcome these moves to improve enforcement of existing rights and make sure that workers and their bosses know their rights and obligations. A single contact point and closer joint working were calls made by the TUC Commission and we are pleased to see the Government respond."

Katja Hall, Director of Employment Policy, CBI, said: "The UK has a strong and extensive framework of employment law and there should be no hiding place for rogue employers who block their staff from benefiting from it.

"There are many misconceptions about vulnerable working, and we are pleased that the Government will look further at this complicated issue.

"We support targeted enforcement to drive out those who gain an unfair competitive advantage by exploiting their staff. However, such enforcement must not raise the costs of business for the vast majority of compliant firms.

"There must also be more effective advice and guidance available for those firms - particularly SMEs - who want to comply."

Notes to editors

1. Establishing a Fair Employment Enforcement Board was one of the measures recommended in the final report of the Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum. The Board will oversee key projects set out in the conclusions of the Forum.

2. The Vulnerable Workers Enforcement Forum was established to examine abuses of employment law. It reported in August 2008, after working with the government over the previous year.

Recommendations included:

* Establishing a Fair Employment Enforcement Board

* Creating a single telephone helpline for vulnerable workers to report abuses to the government's workplace enforcement agencies
* The launch of a sustained campaign to raise awareness of employment rights issues and encourage workers to report abuses

3. A vulnerable worker is someone working in an environment where the risk of being denied employment rights is high and who does not have the capacity or means to protect themselves from that abuse.

4. The Fair Employment Enforcement Board includes:

* Employment Relations Minister Pat McFadden (chairman)

* HM Revenue and Customs

* Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate

* Health and Safety Executive

* Gangmasters Licensing Authority

* Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

* Confederation of British Industry

* Trades Union Congress

* Federation of Small Businesses

* Citizens Advice

5. Information on the TUC's Commission on Vulnerable Employment can be found at

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