Plans for Aggravated Labour Law Breaches

Following on from last month’s article on the proposed new criminal offence of aggravated labour law breach, the Government has published its intentions in this area and we can now confirm the way forward.

The background to the new measures is the Government’s recognition of the fact that, despite the existence of employment law and action taken by enforcement agencies, there are still a number of law breaches which are shifting from individual abuses of employment law towards examples of organised criminal activity which amounts to labour market exploitation.

Following on from the Consultation exercise, the Government has decided to:

• Create a statutory position of Director of Labour Market Enforcement, who will produce an annual labour market enforcement strategy and set priorities for the enforcement bodies across the whole of the labour market. Provision has been made within the Immigration Bill for the creation of this post.

• Create communication gateways between the Director and the existing enforcement agencies e.g. HMRC.

• Transform the Gangmasters Licensing Authority into the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to prevent, detect and investigate worker exploitation across all labour sectors.

• Create a new type of improvement notice in relation to an aggravated labour law breach. The Government has decided not to move forward with the creation of a specific new criminal offence of exploitation which was suggested in the consultation. This is because it would involve the need to prove an employer’s motivation or intention of committing a breach. Proving a breach of an improvement notice would be easier, the Government believes. Under the new plans for an improvement notice, enforcement agencies will have the power, where they believe a labour market offence has been committed, to require a company to enter into an undertaking to take steps to prevent further offending. If the company fails to comply with the improvement notice, an enforcement order will be applied for. Failure to comply with an enforcement order will be a criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of a 2 year prison sentence.

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