Government to crack down on abuse in the UK garment sector
The UK government said it will explore further measures to target abuses in the garment sector. Options being examined include creating a Garment Trade Adjudicator to investigate companies’ supply chains, or extending the licencing scheme that currently covers employers in the agricultural sector.
Under the scheme, businesses who provide workers for agriculture and the fresh produce supply chain must apply for a license to operate in the sectors, and are subject to inspections to ensure they meet employment standards required by law. UKFT is part of the consortium working with government on this issue.
The government warned it could introduce harsher measures for brands which do not improve behaviour, including bans on goods made in factories where workers have been underpaid.
It comes as the government confirmed it will create a new workers’ watchdog to protect the rights of UK workers, with responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers.
The plans will see the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement combined to create a single enforcement body.
This move aims to improve enforcement through better co-ordination and pooling intelligence.
The watchdog will provide a single port of call for workers so they know their rights and can blow the whistle on bad behaviour.
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 new body will continue 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.
To help businesses understand the rules, the new body will provide guidance on best practice, complementing the work already carried out by existing authorities such as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). It will seek to build strong links with community and worker groups to spread awareness and support engagement with at-risk groups, including the low-paid and those in sectors like construction and agriculture that could be at higher risk of abuse.