Labour’s ‘Fair Work Agency’ will have ‘real teeth’ says Angela Rayner

Agency will have the power to inspect workplaces and levy fines

24 Jun 2024| News

The Labour Party will create a ‘Fair Work Agency’ if it gets into power, according to an interview with Angela Rayner in The Observer.

The new body will have “real teeth” and the power to prosecute and fine companies that breach employment law, Labour’s deputy leader said.

Personnel Today reports that the aim of the organisation would be to enforce a raft of new rights promised by Labour in its New Deal for Working People, including making flexible working the default from day one for all; a ban on expolitative zero-hours contracts; a right to a predictable working contract and ending ‘fire and rehire’ practices.

“Under the Tories, the enforcement of workers’ rights is fragmented, overburdened and overstretched. That’s bad for workers, for businesses and for our economy,” Angela Rayner told the Observer:

“Allowing those who don’t even pay the national minimum wage off scot-free only encourages a race to the bottom. Employers who want to do right by their workers are being badly let down, finding themselves undercut by those who refuse to play by the rules.”

Labour would amalgamate the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate into the new body. Its manifesto has already made reference to a “Fair Work Standard” that would recognise employers who drive up employment standards, something that would be created and upheld by a new Social Value Council.

Michael Savage, writing in The Observer adds:

“The government had pledged to create a single workers’ rights body but later shelved the idea. It was proposed in a review of workplace practices ordered by Theresa May and overseen by Matthew Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair. Taylor said in 2021 that he had been confronted with a “deafening silence” from ministers on the issue. While the government briefly appeared to recommit to its creation after revelations of abuses in Leicester, ministers blamed Covid for running out of time to pursue the reforms. Rayner’s commitment to the watchdog is the latest sign that she is standing her ground over the reforms after the architect of New Labour, Lord Mandelson, called on party leaders to tread carefully and continue to consult business leaders. The Unite union has complained that Labour has diluted its workers’ rights plans, though other unions have backed the package.

Recent analysis from the government’s Low Pay Commission found that 366,000 workers were underpaid the minimum wage in April 2023, though it said the data can give a misleading view of legitimate working practices. The figure represents more than one in five of all workers on the minimum wage.

The Resolution Foundation thinktank has found that 1.8 million workers said they did not have access to their payslip, while 900,000 did not have their paid holiday entitlement. Labour said a single body would help good employers access help setting their employment terms.”