Fair Employment Enforcement Board will tackle abuse of vulnerable workers in construction and other industries

The government is to set up a dedicated body to crack down on the abuse of vulnerable workers.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is to set up a Fair Employment Enforcement Board, which will ensure that employment standards are upheld in the UK's workplaces, including in construction.

Chaired by Pat McFadden, the employment relations minister, the board will oversee and co-ordinate the work of government enforcement agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive, the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate (EASI) and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

It will also introduce measures such as:

  • Setting up a single telephone helpline for vulnerable workers to report abuses to the government's workplace enforcement agencies
  • Launching a £6m advertising campaign, starting this year, to raise awareness of employment rights issues and to encourage workers to report abuses.
  • Changing legislation to allow HM Revenue and Customs, EASI and others to share information, allowing for more joined-up action on investigations
  • Doubling the number of inspectors on the EASI
  • Introducing stronger penalties for agency offences and increasing the investigative powers of EASI
  • Encouraging enforcement agencies, advice bodies, and community groups.

The board has been introduced in response to the findings of the Vulnerable Workers Enforcement Forum, a group of enforcement agencies, business and union leaders who have examined worker abuses over the past year.

But construction union Ucatt, a member of the forum, has warned that the measures introduced by the government do not go far enough to protect vulnerable workers in the industry, and repeated its call for gangmasters legislation to be extended to construction.