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Labour market enforcer steps up to fight workplace abuses

25 July 2017

Moves to crack down on those who break employment law were today greeted as a welcome development by the Law Society of England and Wales.

Director of labour market enforcement Sir David Metcalfe published his interim strategy which proposes government agencies take a bigger role in addressing systematic breaches of employment law, prompting Law Society president Joe Egan to say: "Employment law with clear, enforceable rights and expectations is good for individuals, and good for business.

"Yet the system we have makes it too hard for some people to uphold their rights, especially when they face deliberate and systematic abuse by bad employers. These bad employers not only harm their staff, but also undercut legitimate competitors.

"That is why we have been calling for the government to step up to the plate and take a bigger role in stopping these egregious breaches, and we're pleased that Sir David is looking to do just that."

Sir David's strategy proposes government enforcement agencies target the worst offenders and use the threat of serious enforcement to deter bad behaviour.

In particular, he proposes government enforcement agencies make better use of new enforcement undertakings and orders. These can force individuals or companies that repeatedly breach employment laws to rectify bad practice, and carry a maximum two-year prison sentence if disobeyed.

"We know that employment tribunal fees are blocking 70% of people from upholding their rights through the employment tribunal," said Joe Egan.

"With so many people prevented from protecting their own rights, Sir David's recognition of the important role state agencies can play in stopping bad employers is a very welcome step forward.

"We've been calling for this larger government role, to supplement the great work employment solicitors do with clients every day. With first the Taylor Review and now Sir David taking up this call, there is growing momentum towards a positive change in how our rights at work are protected.

"All that remains now is for the government to match good intentions with the policy, actions, and resources agencies need to make this a reality."

The strategy is open for consultation until 13 October, and the Law Society's Employment Law Committee will be submitting on it.

Notes to editors

The Law Society has previously highlighted the large number of people prevented from accessing the employment tribunal, and how this undermines access to justice.

An increased role for the government in enforcing employment rights was a key call in the Law Society's submission to Matthew Taylor's review of employment practices.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

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