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Consultation on establishing a single enforcement body for employment rights: Responses

Earlier in July we posted an update on the launch of consultation on the proposal for a single employment rights enforcement body in the UK, contained in the government’s Good Work Plan (earlier update here). The consultation period for this proposal closed on 6 October 2019. Both the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) and Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) have now published their feedback on the proposal.

The CAB welcomes the proposal taking the view that the current enforcement system is not working. They argue the current system is complicated for complainants as it consists of multiple enforcement bodies that have varying powers on a range of complaints. For example, both the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and HMRC Statutory Sick Pay Disputes Team have a responsibility to process complaints relating to sick pay, but only a complaint to the GLAA may lead to an investigation on wider practice. A harmonised system would provide workers with a single place to go for help on all their basic employment rights.

The ELA also suggested that the current system is not an effective means of enforcing individual’s employment rights and that too much reliance is placed on the Tribunal process. The ELA were positive about the proposal, suggesting that it would be a single point of contact for individuals and could be a central organisation providing materials to educate workers and employers about employment rights.

However, both the ELA and CAB raised concerns over aspects of the proposal.  In particular, these concerns included the time required to amalgamate the existing system into a single body and that sufficient funding and resources will need to be allocated to co-ordinate such a move. The ELA suggested that the single enforcement body should not erode the existing skills and expertise within separate organisations, singling out the Equality and Human Rights Commission in particular for its expertise in equality issues and recommending that its role should not be interfered with. It also raised the concern that a single enforcement body that is more accessible to employees could increase the volume of state investigations compared to the number of Tribunal claims, as employees may feel more comfortable making a claim to a government body than bringing a Tribunal case. Further management time and resources would need to be allocated to dealing with such investigations and it will need to be determined whether this would be the most efficient means of dealing with employees’ complaints.

Following the responses to the consultation, it is yet to be seen whether the government will alter the proposal put forward by the Good Work Plan.

Consultation on establishing a single enforcement body for employment rights: Responses