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BEIS consultation on establishing a new single enforcement body for employment rights – Law Society response

24 October 2019

The proposals

As part of the government’s Good Work Agenda, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) requested views on whether establishing a new single enforcement body for employment rights could:

  • improve enforcement for vulnerable workers
  • create a level playing field for the majority of businesses who are complying with the law

Our view

We welcome the concept of creating a single enforcement body (SEB).

The evidence suggests that there are many vulnerable workers who are not enforcing their rights, thus bad practices are allowed to continue.

The responsibility of employment law enforcement should be shared between individuals, organisations, and the state.

Having a SEB should make the reporting of employment law breaches easier. At the moment, it can be unclear where issues can be reported to, if anywhere at all.

The SEB should have a strong interest in helping organisations and individuals comply with the law.

The purpose of enforcement is to stop those who wilfully or neglectfully do not respect the law and signal a deterrent to businesses which need to prioritise. It’s not to try and catch-out businesses who want to comply.

The SEB could have a positive role in relation to discrimination and harassment in workplace, but before doing so two issues need to be resolved.

Firstly, to be effective the two separate purposes of creating a safe working environment, and individual compensation needs to be clearly understood.

The second issue is around whether this is a role for the SEB or the EHRC.

What this means for solicitors

If a SEB is created, then the way employment law is enforced could change radically. We are currently at the very early stages of consulting on the idea.

Both the Conservative government and the Labour opposition talk about the need to create a SEB, but they have different visions.

This means it’s unclear when the SEB will be created and how it’ll operate.

Next steps

The consultation closed on 6 October.

Once all the responses have been considered, BEIS will publish their response and future vision for the SEB.

At this point, there could be further consultations on the matter.

View the consultation on the GOV.UK website

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