Regulating working conditions: a ‘one stop shop’ approach to tackling modern slavery

29 July 2021

To meet widespread concern about vulnerable workers and working conditions in industries including agriculture, fashion, food and waste disposal, last month (June 2021) the government set up a new watchdog to take over responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers.

The new body is designed to support employers to comply with the law, provide detailed guidance on best practice and take enforcement action for non-compliance.

It is hoped that a ‘one-stop shop’ approach, combining the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement, will improve enforcement of workers’ rights.

How will the new regulator operate?

One of the aims of the new body will be to support employers to comply with the law. Compliance activities of bodies such as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (‘Acas’) will be built upon to provide detailed technical guidance to employers on their obligations to workers. It is also envisages that the new body will develop links with community and worker groups to support engagement with at-risk groups, such as agriculture.  

The government has confirmed that the new body will continue to use the current naming and shaming system under the National Minimum Wage scheme. Businesses who fail to pay workers the minimum wage can expect to be publicly called out for this. A new compliance notice system will be created to address lower harm breaches, whereas rogue employers who flagrantly fail to pay workers minimum wage may be fined up to £20,000 per worker.

The new body will also be given powers to ensure that workers receive holiday and sick pay that they are legally entitled to.

The enforcement activity will extend to regulations protecting the pay of agricultural workers employed by agencies or gangmasters.

The government hopes that by effectively enforcing the rights of vulnerable workers, responsible businesses are not undercut by those who do not pay or treat their workers properly.

Proposals for the future

It is clear that if businesses fail to comply with their legal requirements in relation to protecting vulnerable workers, the following measures could be introduced:

  • Goods made in factories where workers have been underpaid could be banned; 
  • A Garment Trade Adjudicator could be created to investigate supply chains; and
  • The licence scheme that currently covers employers in the agricultural sector could be extended to other industries. This is where businesses that source workers for fresh food supply chains must be licensed to operate in the sector and are subject to regular inspections.


While the finer details of how the regulator will operate are not yet clear, it is apparent that businesses will need to take steps to ensure that they protect vulnerable workers, or they may face public enforcement action. Failing to comply may have wide reaching consequences, including the possibility of receiving large fines. If businesses wish to avoid this, they will have to ensure that there are no abuses taking place in their supply chains. 

You can view the full government response to the consultation here and the full DBEIS statement here.

Further Information

Should you have any questions about the issues covered in this blog, please contact Sophie Kemp, Imogen Roberts or any member of our Public Law team.


About the Authors

Sophie Kemp is an experienced public lawyer, advising on major public inquiriesjudicial review, and modern slavery and human rights.  Sophie acts for individuals, charities, companies and regulatory bodies in judicial review litigation. She has considerable investigative and public inquiry experience representing individuals, institutions, charities, public figures and senior professionals in major public inquiries, inquests, IOPC investigations, and before Select Committees.

Imogen is a trainee solicitor in Kingsley Napley’s Public Law team. Imogen joined Kingsley Napley in 2020, having worked as a Senior Caseworker at Resolve West (a charity specialising in restorative justice). Imogen trained as a restorative justice facilitator and mediated conversations between victims and perpetrators of serious violent and sexual assaults. Imogen also worked at the Personal Support Unit, assisting litigants in person at court.


Latest blogs & news

In deep water: High Court decides on level of compensation for interference with fishing quotas

The latest judgment in the long-running dispute between salmon fisherman, Mr Mott, and the Environment Agency (Mott & Merrett v Environment Agency [2019] EWHC 1892 (Admin)) about the imposition of restrictions on his fishing licence provides useful guidance on the calculation of damages under the Human Rights Act 1998 (“HRA”).

High Court finds Mayor’s Congestion Charge decision did not involve unlawful discrimination

On 24 July 2019, the High Court handed down judgment in R (on the application of Independent Workers Union Of Great Britain and others) v Mayor Of London [2019] EWHC 1997 (Admin). This case related to the decision in December 2018 by the Mayor of London to remove an exemption and require private hire vehicles (“PHV”) to pay the Congestion Charge from 8 April 2019


‘World-leading’ Modern Slavery Act 2015: review confirms more to be done

The Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 commenced in July 2018 with a remit to consider specific provisions of the Act: the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner; transparency in supply chains; Independent Child Trafficking Advocates; and the legal application of the act. The final report was published in May 2019.  This follows a series of interim reports on the four themes.

Court finds approach by DWP to Universal Credit ‘odd in the extreme’

The High Court judgment of R (Johnson, Woods, Barrett and Stewart) v SSWP [2019]EWHC 23 (Admin) involved a judicial review challenge to the method of calculating universal credit. The claimants successfully demonstrated that the DWP’s method of calculation was an incorrect interpretation of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 (the Regulations) as it failed to account for circumstances where workers’ pay dates do not converge with the fixed assessment periods under the universal credit scheme. 

Dog walker successfully challenges local authority’s PSPO in High Court

The High Court has, for the first time, considered the validity of a Public Space Protection Order and ruled in favour, at least in part, of a local resident who challenged some controversial restrictions which criminalised the normal behaviour of dogs in council owned parks and public spaces.

Has Brexit undermined the UK’s ability to extradite its fugitives?

Whilst the uncertainty over Brexit and the painfully slow progress of political talks continues, the Supreme Court of Ireland has taken matters into its own hands and decided that the Irish state cannot surrender an individual who is the subject of an European Arrest Warrant (EAW) to the UK because of the risk that his rights as an EU citizen will not be enforceable in the UK post-Brexit. This has raised concerns that other countries could follow suit and leave the UK unable to rely on the EAW system whilst the terms of Brexit are being agreed. 

Legal Update: Revisiting trial in the absence of a defendant

Smith v Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [2017] (Unreported)

The High Court’s decision is (sometimes) final: the Court of Appeal confirms the decision of a coroner in relation to witnesses and the risk of harm caused by giving evidence

The husband and children of the school teacher, Ann Maguire, who was murdered by a pupil, William Cornick, in her classroom in April 2014 have been unsuccessful in their attempt to appeal against the decision of the High Court to dismiss their claim for judicial review of a decision of the Assistant District Coroner for West Yorkshire. 

Legal Update: Judicial review of decisions in the Crown Court

The recent decision in Farhia Ali v Crown Court at Kingston [2017] EWHC 2706 (Admin) provides a reminder of the narrow availability of judicial review in relation to decisions of the Crown Court. In Farhia, a decision to refuse bail following the jury’s verdict was found not to be capable of being judicially reviewed as it was not within the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court. 

Legal update: Administrators’ efforts to realise Monarch’s assets boosted by judicial review victory

In the recent case of R (Monarch Airlines Limited (in administration)) v Airport Coordination Limited [2017] EWCA Civ 1892, the Court of Appeal considered whether an airline that had fallen into administration could still be allocated valuable slots at airports. 

When is a data controller liable for the criminal acts of a rogue employee?

The acquisition from organisations of large databases of personal data by external parties (usually hackers) is an increasingly modern phenomenon – think Ashley Madison, PlayStation, TalkTalk. Less common, and perhaps of greater concern for employers, is the ‘inside job’ where a trusted employee is responsible for a major breach of data security. The High Court case of Various Claimants v Wm Morrisons Supermarket PLC [2017] EWHC 3113 (QB) has shown that a data controller can be held vicariously liable for the misuse of date by one of its employees even where it has done everything it reasonably can do to prevent such a breach.

The Coroner’s decision is (almost always) final: the Court’s approach to judicial review of inquest proceedings

The recent decision of Mr Justice Holroyde in R oao Donald Maguire and ors v The Assistant Coroner for West Yorkshire (Eastern Area) [2017] EWHC 2039 provides a salutary reminder of just how difficult it is successfully to judicially review the ‘case management’ decisions of a coroner – in this case a decision as to which witnesses to call at an inquest – and of the costs risks of bringing such a challenge.

Brexit: what the Government (whoever forms it) needs to do now

The dissolution of Parliament and subsequent election campaign put on ice the legal steps that will have to be taken in order to make progress in achieving Brexit. Give that both the Conservatives and Labour were committed to Brexit, whatever the make-up of the next Government attention needs to re-focus on what needs to be done through legislation in order to make Brexit possible in practice.

Brexit and the general election – UK misses implementation deadline for European Investigations Order Directive

Debate during the 2017 general election campaign has, predictably, centred on Brexit. The UK is scheduled to leave the EU by April 2019. However, until we leave, the UK remains a Member State of the EU and is therefore subject to the obligations of EU law and the acquis communautaire. One of the fundamental principles of EU law is the requirement placed on EU Member States to implement Directives. Ordinarily, a Directive must be provided for in domestic law by a Member State by a specified date. It would appear that thanks, at least in part, to Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election, the Directive on the European Investigation Order (“the Directive”) has not been implemented by the UK within the prescribed time period. In this blog, we explore what has (not) happened. 

Legal update: court is left unconvinced by ‘Purdah’ argument in judicial review proceedings

R (on the application of ClientEarth) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [2017] EWHC B12 (Admin)

Politics interrupts Brexit? Theresa May calls for an early election

The Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, has surprised Westminster and the country at large by calling for an early general election. The Prime Minister intends that the election will take place on 8 June 2017. She has called for it in order to, in part, overcome the ‘division’ at Westminster in respect of Brexit. It is a risky political gamble that might disrupt the UK’s exit from the EU. 

“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” - the Government reveals further details about Brexit

Winston Churchill once described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. The Brexit process could perhaps be described in similar terms. That said, slowly but surely the Government (through choice or compulsion) is unveiling more detail about Brexit, including how the UK will leave the European Union (EU) and the nature of domestic law following the UK’s departure.  This blog explores two recent examples: the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2016-17; and the Government’s White Paper on its Brexit strategy, which was released today. 

The Brexit ruling - did the Supreme Court get it right?

The Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Miller sent shockwaves around Westminster. In a case of great constitutional importance, the court decided that the Government needs approval from Parliament before it can trigger Article 50. However, with three of the eleven justices choosing to dissent, the decision was far from unanimous. In this blog, we analyse where the two sides disagreed and help you decide whether the Supreme Court made the right call. 

The Brexit ruling - summary of the decision of the majority

On Tuesday 24 January, UK constitutional law was thrown into the spotlight in what can only be described as one of the most hotly anticipated judgments in recent years. The fact that all eleven Justices of the Supreme Court sat to hear the Government’s appeal (an unprecedented event in the Court’s history) signifies the importance of the decision, which marks another important step in the road to Brexit. 

Share insightLinkedIn Twitter Facebook Email to a friend Print

Email this page to a friend

We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

Leave a comment

Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility