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Enforcing employment laws – report says lack of resource leaves vulnerable workers at risk

The government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published a report yesterday which found that low-skilled, vulnerable workers are at risk of exploitation because employment laws are not being properly enforced.

MAC Chairman, Professor Sir David Metcalf CBE, said the report highlighted that insufficient resources are devoted to key regulatory bodies such as HMRC, which enforces the national minimum wage, and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. Similarly, he said that penalties for breaching the regulations are not severe enough.

The report found that, at the current annual rate of visits, it would take almost 250 years for HMRC to inspect every employer for national minimum wage (NMW) compliance. Similarly, in the seven years from 2007 to 2013, only nine employers were prosecuted for non-compliance with NMW legislation, equivalent to 1.3 prosecutions per year.

MAC researchers found that unscrupulous activity surrounding payment of overtime, income taxes, National Insurance contributions, holiday pay and adherence to health and safety and other legislation was commonplace in the food production and processing sectors, in particular, and the report suggests that major retailers should work to ensure their supply chains meet ethical standards.

The full MAC report, and a shorter summary report, is available on the government website.

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