The department for business, energy and industrial strategy has announced that a new watchdog will be created to protect the rights of UK workers.
The news follows several calls from trade bodies which have been advocating for workers’ protective rights since the pandemic saw an 80% spike in verbal abuse.
This “one-stop shop” approach brings together three existing different bodies and the new watchdog will take over responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing minimum wage, improving enforcement and ensuring employees and businesses know where to go for help on workers’ rights.
The body will also 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.
In addition, 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.
The body will also continue with the Naming and Shaming scheme, which calls out companies who fail to pay workers what they are owed and can hit rogue employers with fines of up to £20,000 per worker.
This enforcement activity will be extended to cover other regulations protecting the pay of workers employed through agencies or by gangmasters in the agricultural sector.
Paul Scully, business minister, said: “This government has been absolutely clear that we will do whatever we can to protect and enhance workers’ rights.
“This new workers’ watchdog will help us crack down on any abuses of workers’ rights and take action against companies that turn a blind eye to abuses in their supply chains, while providing a one-stop shop for employees and businesses wanting to understand their rights and obligations.”