The Director of Labour Market Enforcement (DLME) aims to improve compliance with employment rights and to tackle the exploitation of vulnerable workers in the UK. Each year they consult on the priority areas for their strategy before presenting to the Secretary of State for Business and Energy and the Home Secretary for approval.
The proposed strategy for 2024 to 2025 looks at four key themes: improving understanding and scale of labour non-compliance ; improving focus and effectiveness; better joined-up thinking between enforcement bodies, and improving engagement with employers. The CIPD’s response draws on evidence from our report: Revamping labour market enforcement in the UK which calls for a more progressive approach to enforcement and a much greater focus on supporting businesses to comply.
Our research shows that certain groups and sectors – mostly low skilled/low paid/non-unionised workers, on the edges of the labour market, and those working in SMEs - are among those most at risk of breaches of many aspects of employment legislation. The challenges of enforcing employment rights is particularly acute among smaller employers, with non-compliance often a result of ignorance rather than deliberate action.
To address these challenges, we’ve proposed four key areas of reform:
1. Provide greater support for individuals to know their rights and take action against employers
The CIPD has consistently called on the Government, working with organisations such as Acas, Citizens Advice, trade unions and professional bodies, to run a high-profile ‘know your rights’ campaign, which would set out information on employment rights, as well as where to go if they have concerns or want to make a complaint.
The UK’s enforcement framework is too heavily weighted on the responsibility of individuals to enforce their rights. The Government should make the enforcement process simpler by taking direct enforcement action against employers who do not pay tribunal awards without the individual having to fill in extra forms or pay an extra fee.
We also believe there is a strong case to amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to allow independent, CIPD-qualified HR consultants to advise individuals on making and responding to employee relations allegations and claims and signing off settlement agreements.
2. Create a single body to enforce workers’ rights
Creating a well-resourced Single Enforcement Body (SEB) is key to improving the enforcement and protection of workers’ health and rights. We also believe that to help tackle discrimination at work, the SEB should have responsibility for enforcing workers’ rights under the Equality Act. However, its success would hinge on whether it receives sufficient resources to do its job.
3. Abolish ‘worker’ status to remove confusion around employment rights
In our 2020 policy and research paper: Reforming employment status: Building a stronger foundation for employment rights, we suggest that the three categories of employment status undermine people’s employment rights and cause confusion. We therefore believe that ‘worker’ status should be abolished to provide more certainty and aligning status for both tax and employment purposes.
4. Provide small small businesses with more support with compliance
CIPD research shows that a high proportion of smaller firms are among those most at risk of breaches of many aspects of employment legislation. We therefore need a greater focus on ensuring that smaller businesses – who are not talking to Acas, membership bodies or supply chains – receive quality business support through Local Enterprise Partnerships and Growth Hubs and to help improve enforcement of employment rights.