Labour Proposes to Strengthen Workers’ Rights with a Fair Work Agency

The Labour Party has pledged to strengthen workers’ rights. Angela Rayner has plans to do this by introducing a Fair Work Agency; if it is successful at the general election.

Read on to learn more about what the Fair Work Agency would be, how this aligns with other promises by the Labour Party and the ways in which it could help with common workplace issues.

What Is the Fair Work Agency?

Deputy leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner, has said that the Fair Work Agency will be a new organisation designed to uphold workers’ rights in the UK. It will have “real teeth”, with the power to investigate, prosecute, bring civil proceedings against, and/or impose financial penalties on companies which breach employment laws.

Chief among the Fair Work Agency’s aims will be to enforce the various new rules to benefit workers. Another promise by the Labour Party for them to deliver should it win the election.

Current Workers’ Rights Enforcement is ‘Overburdened and Overstretched’

Angela Rayner has criticised the present state of workers’ rights enforcement and worker protection. She described it as “fragmented, overburdened and overstretched” under the Conservative Party.  She states, “Allowing those who don’t even pay the national minimum wage off scot-free only encourages a race to the bottom. Employers who want to do right by their workers are being badly let down, finding themselves undercut by those who refuse to play by the rules.”

In terms of its structure, the Fair Work Agency would amalgamate the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, and the National Minimum Wage Unit. Currently, these bodies govern and investigate labour exploitation, protect the rights of agency workers, and ensure the payment of the national minimum wage in the UK.

This potential fusion has been largely greeted with enthusiasm by those who feel a unified approach will achieve higher standards of enforcement and greater worker protection.

One such supporter is Shazia Ejaz, director of the Recruitment and Employment Federation. She stated: “A single point of enforcement will help our world-class flexible labour market continue to drive economic success.”

Labour Party Promises: Fair Work Agency and Other Plans of Improvement

Over the past weeks, the Labour Party has announced a number of plans to improve workers’ rights if it comes into power. In its “New Deal for Working People,” Labour has promised to take steps to enhance and support the rights of all workers in the UK in various ways.

To date, these pledges have included making flexible working the default position for all workers and banning zero-hours contracts. The Labour Party has also promised to give workers the right to a “predictable working contract” and put a stop to the practice of firing and rehiring.

Additionally, they make plans with respect to workers having to take sick leave. Currently, workers are generally required to wait three days before becoming entitled to statutory sick pay. Under the Labour Party, however, this will instead be available from the first day of illness. The TUC has stated that this is likely to help around 7 million workers across the UK.

The TUC’s general secretary, Paul Nowak, applauds this approach, stating that the present system is “just plain wrong particularly given today’s cost of living. He said: “Millions of workers face a financial cliff edge if they get ill… That’s why it is essential that SSP is available from day one and available to all. Being forced to work through illness is bad for workers and bad for public health.”

How the Fair Work Agency Might Help with Common Workplace Issues

Given the power and aims that the Fair Work Agency would have, it would be able to assist with many common workplace problems which workers experience today.

It will have the ability to inspect workplaces and conduct investigations into workers’ rights and whether these are being upheld by employers. As such, the Fair Work Agency would be ideally placed to provide worker protection with respect to their rights of holiday pay, parental rights, and sick pay.

Bringing Legal Proceedings Against Employer

Moreover, the Fair Work Agency would be entitled to bring legal proceedings against employers who fail to comply with employment law requirements. This might include initiating prosecutions or civil actions against such employers. Whilst a shocking number of employers are currently failing to uphold workers’ rights, the Fair Work Agency would be able to ensure that this changes going forwards.

According to a report released by the government’s Low Pay Commission, in April last year, 366,000 workers across the UK did not receive the national minimum wage. The report stated that the data may give a “misleading view of legitimate working practices”. However, the Fair Work Agency would be in a position to investigate this further, find out which employers are failing to adequately pay their workers, and take appropriate action to ensure worker protection in this regard.

The Fair Work Agency would not only be able to conduct punitive measures. The Labour Party has indicated that it would also be able to “help good employers access help setting their employment terms.” This would hopefully achieve a good balance between assisting employers to uphold their workers’ rights and sanctioning those who refuse to do this.

If you are concerned that your employer is failing to uphold your workers’ rights, the employment law specialists here at Redmans Solicitors would be glad to advise you. Contact our friendly team today to arrange a confidential consultation and find out how we may be able to assist.

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