Looking out for changes to employment legal regulation and rights in 2022

In June 2021, we examined the prospect of the proposed single enforcement body taking us to cohesive, state-funded employment regulatory enforcement. But we saw little progress, which we discussed in this previous article on employment rights, suggesting the pandemic as a primary reason.

Now the furlough scheme has ended and the pandemic is receding, albeit slowly, we have spotted two important first steps on the institution of that single enforcement body (SEB). These have not been well publicised.

First, it was announced in late November 2021 that the office of Director of Labour Market Enforcement (DLME), vacated by Matthew Taylor in early 2021, had been filled by Margaret Beels OBE, Chair of the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA). This announcement confirms that her role will also set the strategic direction for the three existing labour market enforcement bodies, including:

  • Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate
  • GLAA
  • HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Team

We know that the combination of all three bodies is intended as the role of the SEB, with Beels overseeing an annual assessment of the scale and nature of non-compliance in the labour market. Such a report is usual for the DLME role, but that annual assessment is now described as: “from accidental breaches of the national minimum wage to more severe and deliberate crimes such as modern slavery”. Therefore, it will represent the proposed SEB areas.

The second step, executed just as quietly as the first, was the publication of the United Kingdom Labour Market Enforcement Strategy 2021/22 in December 2021, which had been signed off almost a year earlier by Matthew Taylor during his role as interim DLME, and was submitted to Government in January 2021.

Whether his clearly stated views on the remit of the SEB will be adopted remains to be seen, but such well-informed work surely should not be disregarded. Mr Taylor’s plan for the integration of labour market enforcement bodies envisaged progress being made during 2021/22. Perhaps this publication is also because Government is aware (although it has not been publicised either) there has been progress on this integration work during the COVID-19 infected months of 2021.

We have been led to believe that the already announced remit of the SEB, which was clearly aligned to Matthew Taylor’s ideas on its enforcement categories, is to be included in the Employment Bill. (This will sit alongside a raft of other measures such as carers’ leave, tips and gratuities transparency and the output from the Making flexible working the default consultation which closed on 1 December.)

Perhaps these are the signs that the Government is finally tiptoeing towards presenting us with its long-awaited Employment Bill. So much of the varied menu of that intended Bill’s proposed contents is well known. It is aimed at completing the remaining work on the three pillars of the Good Work Plan. The plan, now almost five years old, was the result of Mr Taylor’s original Review of Modern Working Practices report. It emphasises fair and decent work for all and, with the impending SEB, fairer enforcement of employment rights.