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Workers’ watchdog welcome, but needs funding says Peer

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Members of the House of Lords clashed at a Parliamentary debate on the government's new workers’ watchdog, which has been set up to protect the rights of UK workers.


The new, single enforcement body will be responsible for tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers.

This work is currently spread across three different bodies, and the government says that a new, ‘one-stop shop’ approach will help improve enforcement through better co-ordination and pooling intelligence. It is the formal response to the consultation which was launched in July 2019.

The new watchdog will take action against companies that turn a blind eye to abuses in their supply chains. Photograph: iStock

Lib Dem peer, Christopher Fox, debating on 10 June, said that although a single enforcement agency is welcome, people’s working conditions and the rules in place that protect them are inadequate and these are the more pressing issues.

“The International Labour Organization recommends that Governments have one inspector per 10,000 workers. In the UK the current funding is for 0.4,” he said.

 “Things need to change,” he continued. “When will we see an end to the toxic practice of delivery workers being required to drive illegally so that they can meet their quotas? When will we see an end to people being forced to skip bathroom breaks? When will nearly two in five workers get more than a week’s notice of their working hours? Because this is the real world of work that is facing many people right now.”

Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, denied that plans to enhance workers’ rights had been left to ‘gather dust.’

He said: “We are committed to bringing forward an employment Bill to protect and enhance workers’ rights as we build back better. We want a high-productivity, high-wage economy that delivers on our ambition, and we want to see workers protected.”

The government says the new watchdog will provide a single, ‘recognisable port of call’ for workers so they know their rights and can blow the whistle on bad behaviour.

The new body will also enforce holiday and statutory sick pay.

The government said it will ‘explore further measures’ to target abuses in the garment sector, following reports of serious problems in the industry. Options being examined include creating a Garment Trade Adjudicator to investigate companies’ supply chain.

Read the government announcement here

 

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