Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that unscrupulous employers who exploit workers will face tougher enforcement action and stronger penalties.
As a way of cracking down on illegal working, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) has now become part of the Home Office. This will strengthen its enforcement and intelligence capabilities, putting it directly alongside the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) considerable resources to tackle the highest harm offenders.
Mr Cameron also announced plans to tackle recruitment agencies which discriminate against UK workers by recruiting solely from abroad. The government will consult on new regulations to require these agencies to advertise vacancies in English in the UK.
“A key part of our long-term plan is making sure our economy delivers for people who do the right thing, so everyone who wants to work hard can get on in life,” Mr Cameron said.
He added that the new changes “will help stop practices which exploit vulnerable workers and undercut local businesses that play by the rules. They will give workers in Britain a fair crack of the whip when it comes to getting a job themselves. That means more economic security for people across our country.”
The new plans are in addition to action the government is already taking to tackle illegal working and recruitment.
For instance, the new regulations to double the maximum penalty for employing illegal workers to £20,000 will come into force at the start of May 2014.
The maximum fine for employers paying below the National Minimum Wage will be increased from £5,000 to £20,000.
There are also plans to introduce primary legislation which will mean maximum penalties of up to £20,000 for each individual worker they have underpaid.
At the same time, the provisions in the Immigration Bill will make it harder for illegal workers to stay in the UK. Powers in the Bill will ensure that landlords check the immigration status of their tenants; and will prohibit illegal immigrants from holding driving licences or bank accounts.