Supply chains in the fashion, construction and cleaning sectors are being targeted by the UK’s director of labour market enforcement, Sir David Metcalf, who has warned that he will be consulting on how to make full use of powers to jail the worst offenders.
The move is the latest step in a process to stamp out labour market abuses. It is just over a year since the Modern Slavery Act came into force in the UK pushing the issue up the business agenda.
In May, it was revealed that the number of potential victims of labour exploitation referred as part of the framework set up to identify victims of modern slavery in the UK increased by 33 per cent from 2015 to 2016.
Kevin Hyland, who was appointed UK independent anti-slavery commissioner by Theresa May when she was home secretary, marked the anniversary of the act, pointing out that mind-sets are starting to change and cultures are beginning to shift. However, he warned: “Complacency is a barrier to progress; we must remain driven to fighting the injustice of modern slavery.”
Metcalf was appointed in January 2017 to oversee a government crackdown on exploitation in the workplace by setting the strategic priorities for three enforcement agencies: HMRC’s National Minimum Wage enforcement team; the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority; and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate.
His report was published alongside this year’s national minimum and living wage enforcement statistics. The figures show in 2016 to 2017 HMRC’s enforcement teams identified a record £10.9 million in back pay for 98,150 of the UK’s lowest paid workers – a 69 per cent increase on those helped last year.
Businesses that failed to pay workers at least the legal minimum wage were also fined £3.9 million, with employers in hospitality and retail sectors among the most prolific offenders.
Metcalf will be launching his consultation this summer, and this will play a part in developing a national strategy which will be published next Spring. It is important that supply chain has a voice in this discussion – if you want to contribute you should email: [email protected].