The government has just published the Labour Market Enforcement Strategy for 2023/24. This is an important document which ultimately aims to stamp out exploitation of workers. It looks at the big picture of risks and non-compliance.
Frustration with the government
Margaret Beels is the director of labour market enforcement, and wrote the report. In it, there is clear frustration with the government:
“The government’s commitment to the role to the Director of Labour Market Enforcement could have been stronger. Repeated delays in clearing and publishing Strategies that I and my predecessors have delivered on time, have delayed useful progress addressing harm to vulnerable workers”
We note that Beels submitted the strategy to the government on 31 March 2023, and it has taken 7 months for it to finally be published on 24 October 2023. This is an improvement on the previous strategy which took almost one year to publish – almost at the end of the period it was meant to cover! The delay is not Margaret Beels’ fault as once again it was submitted to the government in good time, and we share her frustration at their lack of commitment.
Umbrellas continue to be problematic
Some other extracts particularly interested us:
“Crucial enforcement gaps – such as enforcing holiday pay for vulnerable workers and regulation of umbrella companies – remain outstanding.”
“Umbrella companies were the most common compliance concern raised by stakeholders. In what is a growing sector, there is evidence of scams and lack of transparency around pay and enforcement of workers’ rights.”
However no recommendations are being made currently as there is other work on regulating umbrellas already underway elsewhere in the government. If that other work does not deliver, then we get the feeling we will hear more in future strategies. It has been recurring theme since these strategy reports started!
Employment status issues unresolved
On employment status, Beels is frustrated with the government’s poor response to the 2018 consultation on employment status, which took 4 years to publish and concluded no action:
“This is disappointing as I believe that the lack of clarity creates risk of workers being exploited, and I hope that the government will return to the matter soon.”
The government’s lacklustre approach and continued inaction on key issues can only mean that they don’t really care about tackling worker exploitation.