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TUC calls for joint liability law to protect workers in outsourced services

The TUC is calling on the Government to bring in a joint  liability law to ensure any company that outsources production is responsible for the behaviour of its subcontractors. The union body claims such a law would mean that workers could  bring a claim for unpaid wages, sick pay and holiday pay against any contractor in the supply chain above them.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said:  “The Government  should use their employment bill to improve people’s rights and protections at work – starting with a ban on zero-hours contracts. “And we must make household name companies responsible for the behaviour of their subcontractors. Leicester shows that a few bad bosses can cause a second spike of coronavirus.”

Here, at iwork.co.uk we are very strong supporters of compliance throughout the supply chain, as we have seen first-hand the impact that dubious firms can have on innocent workers. Cutting costs is often the main reason for businesses deciding to outsource, however this might be to the detriment to the workforce expected to provide the outsourced services. If margins are squeezed too tightly it becomes unrealistic to expect there to be enough money in the pot to provide workers with all of their statutory rights, but in a price-driven market this is not always a  consideration for the business doing the outsourcing. Therefore, we strongly support any moves for the heads of supply chains to have more responsibility for their subcontractors and particularly how workers are treated.

Indeed, the TUC’s call for joint liability has been partially echoed by the government’s Director of Labour Market Enforcement, who’s 2018-19 strategy proposed joint responsibility (not liability) for supply chain compliance. The government’s published response to the strategy agrees with the principle of joint responsibility, and states that they will consult with businesses, trade unions and enforcement bodies accordingly.

The government’s response was published in December 2018, and to date no consultation has taken place, likely due to the legislative pressures of Brexit and now the pandemic. Hopefully the TUC’s recent call for joint liability will serve as a useful reminder!

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