The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is consulting on proposals to establish a single enforcement body for employment rights as part of the Good Work Plan
BEIS said the proposed enforcement body would co-ordinate support for vulnerable workers and encourage greater business compliance.
It would bring together powers and enforcement activities which are currently spread between a number of different organisations and government departments, including HMRC, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the police.
BEIS says the current enforcement landscape is deeply fragmented and having a single body with a strong, recognisable brand would make it easier for individuals to know where to go for help and to raise a complaint. It would also provide better support for businesses to comply with the rules, including coordinated guidance and communications campaigns, and a more easily navigable and proportionate approach to enforcement.
Part of its core remit would include monitoring breaches of National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW) rules, which currently falls to HMRC. It would also take on responsibility for advising on statutory sick pay claims. HMRC runs a dispute resolution process through its statutory payments dispute team for individuals who believe they have been wrongly denied statutory sick pay, but this is not a proactive service, as people have to bring a complaint before it is investigated.
In addition, the single labour market enforcement body would have new powers, both to enforce holiday pay for vulnerable workers and to regulate umbrella companies operating in the agency worker market.
BEIS says the advantages of this approach would include coordinated enforcement action, with new powers and sanctions to tackle the spectrum of non-compliance, from minor breaches to forced labour and increased focus on high harm cases to disrupt serious, repeated offending. The new body would have access to pooled intelligence and more flexible resourcing enabling greater sharing of intelligence and national tasking, and coordination of operational activity targeted at tackling serious breaches.
It would also work closely with other partners, including immigration officials, benefit fraud, The Pensions Regulator and wider local authority enforcement teams.
The consultation is seeking views on the core remit of a new body, how it would work with other areas of enforcement, the approach to compliance and the type of powers such a body would need.
Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at Peninsula, said: ‘A single enforcement body creates clarity for those who need help or support from governmental bodies but are confused about which acronym to direct their query to.
‘Employers seeking guidance on complex areas such as minimum wage or statutory payments may feel more confident that they will be provided with updated and helpful resources from a single body overseeing these areas.
‘Joined up investigations and enforcement are likely to lead to a more positive investigation experience for employers, as previous experiences of disjointed and lengthy investigations have led to stressful and anxious times.
‘Further clarity could be achieved by including holiday pay enforcement within the remit of this single body. Reviewing employment practices outside of the employment tribunal system, which is currently facing significant delays in hearing cases due to high claim numbers and outstanding cases, will be a positive for employers and employees who wish to resolve matters in a timely manner.
‘Although enforcement has a negative perception from employers, investigations can confirm that they are acting lawfully and are applying the law properly, in line with further guidance provided by the single enforcement body responsible for reviewing this in practice.’
The consultation closes for comment on 6 October 2019.
Extending sick pay
Separately, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care are consulting on proposals which would see the lowest paid employees eligible for statutory sick pay for the first time, while small businesses may be offered a sick pay rebate to reward those who effectively manage employees on sick leave and help them get back to work.
The government will also consider whether to change legal guidance to encourage employers to intervene early during a period of sickness absence.
Additionally, the consultation will look at how to improve the capacity, value and quality of occupational health services and consider how to reduce the high costs, particularly for smaller employers.
This consultation closes on 7 October 2019.
Pat Sweet | 17-07-2019