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Annie Hayes

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No new laws to protect vulnerable workers

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The government has announced there will be no new laws to protect vulnerable workers from rogue employers.

Business groups have reported mixed feelings about the news. Neil Carberry, the CBI’s head of employment, said: “New laws and regulations do little to tackle unscrupulous firms, who simply ignore the law while they undercut law-abiding businesses. This package of reforms will not increase the burden for honest businesses, but will help protect workers who are being denied their employment rights.”

The plans include allowing the Health and Safety Executive and the minimum wage enforcement unit of HMRC to share data; the implementation of a telephone helpline; and a £36m campaign to raise awareness of employment rights.

A new body to co-ordinate the work of the agencies will also be put in place. The Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber said it was “disappointing” that the new outfit would have no power to make recommendations new rights or policy changes.

He added: “It is disappointing that ministers are not prepared to extend the coverage of the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA) to cover other vulnerable sectors such as construction, care and hospitality. The GLA is cleaning up the agriculture and food sectors it covers, and good employers in those sectors have welcomed the assurance that they will not be undercut by the rogue agencies and gangmasters.

“Nor has the Government been prepared to examine the legal loophole that deprives many workers from gaining the legal status of an employee, which stops their entitlement to many rights and allows an employer to sack them with no comeback if they attempt to enforce the limited rights they enjoy.”

The Commission on Vulnerable Employment estimate that around 2 million workers in the UK find themselves in vulnerable employment – defined as precarious work that places people at risk of continuing poverty and injustice resulting from an imbalance of power in the employer-worker relationship.


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Annie Hayes

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