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Regulation That Works


Independent report says industry appreciates tough regulation
An independent report shows the tough enforcement approach of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) makes for effective regulation. It is a model of regulation that really works.

The second report on the performance of the GLA by the University of Sheffield and University of Liverpool was issued in February this year and it follows the baseline report in 2007 and first report in 2008.

From the GLAs point of view, the reports help it to find out how successful it has been in protecting workers from exploitation, and to establish what further work needs to be done.

In assessing this, the researchers said: Licensing has been an appropriate tool to regulate labour providers agency workers are now better placed because of government regulation [and] the GLA is an effective and efficient regulator.

The fact that 79% of surveyed gangmasters were in favour of licensing and 69% felt that the GLA was doing a good job suggests that the Authority is still receiving widespread acclaim for its approach.

However, with many changes in the economy and migration flows it will be a challenging year ahead with the GLA facing changing circumstances in which it operates. The GLA believes that its forceful approach to regulation is even more necessary in a recession, as domestic unemployment rises, food supply chain pressures bite and gangmaster profitability falls and new risks may arise such as firms taking on the unemployed who are still in receipt of benefits.

The third year of GLA activity, 2008-2009, saw the GLA move from the initial phase of drawing as many gangmasters into the formal economy to the current phase of GLA activity to protect the integrity of the licensing system through inspections and catching unlicensed illegal gangmasters through strong and unflinching enforcement.
The report revealed that:

 79% of surveyed gangmasters were in favour of licensing

 69% felt that the GLA were doing a good job

 Only 18% described their contact with the GLA as burdensome

 Over the last 12 months most gangmasters felt that the GLA had had a positive effect on reducing worker exploitation and business fraud.

 There has been a dramatic fall in licensed gangmasters needing to resolve conditions on their licences from 400 to 68.

 22% of businesses that the GLA have had contact with are no longer operating in the GLA sector as they have either been refused a licence or have ceased trading.

 The main non-compliances unearthed on inspection remained the same as last year: health and safety, the proper payment of wages, tax and national insurance and recruitment and contractual practices still represent the main problems found by the GLA.

 The GLAs success in winning appeals against licence revocations is particularly impressive

 The GLA and other regulatory bodies such as the Morecambe Bay Action Group have made it harder for large gangs with bonded-labour to operate in the shellfish gathering industry. Gangmasters offering accommodation, transport, and effectively having full control over their workers have been driven out.

Paul Whitehouse, GLA Chairman, said: Good regulation is about the effective use of information and not demanding irrelevant details. But it is also about setting the standards and coming down hard on those who step out of line in order to send out a strong message to the rest of the industry that non-compliance is non-negotiable.

Government and bodies such as the FSA are now emphasizing that regulators must be tough. We started like that in 2005 and are determined to remain like that. And while we like to work closely with those we regulate, no effective regulator can get so close to those it regulates that it begins to dance to their tune.

Effective regulation is achieved by the direct and tough enforcement of clear rules. I have no doubt about this.

You need an enforcement mentality to achieve this. For example, I was delighted to receive a complaint recently that one of our staff was too forceful. I established that the officer concerned had been polite and correct and congratulated him on his tough yet appropriate approach. The complainant was shocked he had expected a slapped wrist. We exist to
ensure that the laws Parliament has passed to protect workers and make businesses pay their fair share of taxes are enforced. We look kindly on those who are trying hard but get it wrong but we will stand no nonsense from the cheats, the rogues and the crooks.


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