Employment relations minister Pat McFadden is leading a drive to protect workers in the "dark corners of the labour market" by hiring more inspectors for the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EASI) and putting more money into enforcing the minimum wage.
In an interview with the CBI magazine Business Voice, McFadden acknowledges that "most employers are good employers and most people’s experience of work is positive, but there are occasions when the law is broken."
He adds: "Everyone realises the value of competition in an enterprising economy, but what you don’t want is competition based on illegal practices."
McFadden says that HMRC recovers "several million pounds a year on behalf of people paid less than the minimum wage." Because the emphasis is on complying with the law, prosecutions are lower than enforcement actions.
"But EASI has prosecuted someone running a rogue agency and across the piece there are examples of the law being enforced."
Since June 2007, the government has established a Vulnerable Workers Enforcement Forum which is running two pilot projects to help these people understand their rights better.
One focus of these projects is working with restaurant owners where, he claims, "restaurateurs themselves are acting as advocates in areas where there is a high concentration of restaurants."
As for migrant workers, McFadden says that he "doesn’t see us closing the door to migrant workers but I do see us putting a lot of effort into making sure that UK workers are properly equipped to take advantage of the opportunities in today’s labour market."
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