The UK government is now seeking to reform the labour inspection system to address the most severe cases of exploitation rather than general labour market compliance through measures set out in the Immigration Bill before the Houses of Parliament.
FLEX is deeply engaged in advocacy on the Immigration Bill, asking that labour inspection is conducted for the protection of vulnerable workers and that the UK labour inspection agencies are adequately resourced to monitor and enforce labour laws, so preventing trafficking for labour exploitation. To date, FLEX has delivered written and oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee on the Immigration Bill in the House of Commons and will continue to engage as the Bill moves to the House of Lords.
As the Modern Slavery Act proceeded through the UK Houses of Parliament, FLEX engaged at every step of the way. This included delivering written and oral evidence to the ‘Joint pre-legislative committee on the Modern Slavery Bill’ and engaging with members of parliament throughout the passage of the Bill. FLEX called for the Modern Slavery Act to include measures to prevent trafficking and forced labour abuses and to protect victims of trafficking. Some of our key successes include:
ASK: A strong labour inspection system as a first line of defence against labour exploitation, including through the proactive licensing and inspection body the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). To do this FLEX advocated an amendment to the Modern Slavery Act to enable the Government to extend the remit of the GLA where a need is established;
SUCCESS: Section 55 ‘Gangmasters Licensing Authority’ commits the Government to conducting a consultation on the future role of the GLA. Whilst this is much less than we had hoped for, it provides a real opportunity to push for an expanded GLA focus on a larger number of UK labour sectors and to advocate increased resources for it to do this. The Government has also established a ‘Modern Slavery Strategic Lead’ in HMRC and increased resources to the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate.
ASK: Effective accountability measures for labour abuses in supply chains, that allow for parity between businesses, enforceability by government and transparency to consumers and civil society. To do this FLEX co-founded a 'TISC Coalition' of organisations to seek: a set of minimum criteria for disclosure; a central repository for company reports to ensure transparency; and effective enforcement mechanisms implemented by government in the Modern Slavery Act.
SUCCESS: The Government added ‘Part 6 Transparency in Supply Chains’ to the Modern Slavery Act following 'TISC Coalition' advocacy on this issue. However whilst the Government clause asks companies to report on actions taken to address labour exploitation in supply chains it does not nearly meet our expectations in terms of scope or enforceability. A consultation has been initiated, deadline May 7, to set out compliance measures in more detail.