As part of the UK’s Government’s “Good Work Plan” to ensure fair and decent work for all, transparency and clarity of workers’ rights and effective enforcement of those rights, proposals for a single enforcement body were published for consultation in July this year.

Currently in the UK, the majority of employment rights are enforced by the individual through an employment tribunal. However, there are some exceptions where various enforcement bodies take a role to protect particularly vulnerable workers. Examples of this are enforcement of the right to the national minimum wage by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), enforcement of the laws on modern slavery and worker exploitation by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and enforcement of employers’ duties in relation to health and safety at work by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Under the current fragmented system of enforcement, it can sometimes be difficult for workers and employers to know where they should go for help if they believe their rights are being infringed or want information on their workers’ rights.

In order to address these issues, the UK Government proposes the creation of a single labour market enforcement body to better support businesses who want to comply with the rules, to deliver its promise of state enforcement of holiday pay for vulnerable workers and to provide a strong, recognisable single brand so that individuals know where to go for help with regard to their employment rights.

Whilst sure of the great opportunities which its proposals present, the Government is also aware of the risks, for example, that of losing the benefits of the specialisation and expertise built up in the existing specialist bodies.

Under the proposals, the single enforcement body would take on the existing enforcement role of specialist bodies such as the HMRC for enforcement of the national minimum wage and the GLAA for modern slavery offences. It is also consulting on the possibility of the single body dealing with the penalty system for enforcement of tribunal awards (currently undertaken by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and enforcement of statutory sick pay. However, given how established the health and safety regime is, it is not proposed that the specialist work currently undertaken by the HSE be incorporated within the remit of the new enforcement body.

It is proposed that the new body would also take on the state enforcement of certain rights which are not currently enforced by the state, such as the right to holiday pay for vulnerable workers. However, it is not intended that the state take on the enforcement of all employment rights. The vast majority will still require action by individuals through the employment tribunal system.

The consultation closes on 6 October 2019.