The UK Government has announced plans to create a new workers’ watchdog to protect the rights of UK workers.
Responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers – currently spread across three different bodies – will be brought under one roof.
It is hoped that this ‘one-stop shop’ approach will help improve enforcement through better co-ordination and pooling intelligence.
The body will support businesses to do the right thing by their employees by providing guidance on their obligations to staff. Meanwhile, increased enforcement will make sure good businesses aren’t undercut by unscrupulous rival employers who aren’t paying or treating their workers correctly.
As well as enforcing all existing powers belonging to the three agencies, the new body will have a new ability to ensure vulnerable workers get the holiday pay and statutory sick pay they are entitled to – without having to go through a lengthy employment tribunal process.
In response to this announcement, Henry Chango-Lopez, General Secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) which represents precarious, migrant and gig economy workers, said:
In the courts and in the streets, we have been calling for an independent enforcement body to protect worker rights for many years and after the systematic exploitation, abuse and neglect endured by many frontline and precarious workers through the Covid-19 pandemic the need for this has never been clearer.
This could be a step in the right direction but only if trade unions are heard and the government establishes a truly independent watchdog with the power to enforce the law and protect all workers equally. No doubt it will be up to workers themselves and the trade unions that represent them to fight for that and make it known that Britain deserves better than business as usual.