Is your agricultural labour supplier licensed?
Oliver Tasker, senior solicitor, takes a look at the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and the legal requirements surrounding the gangmasters, and the supply of workers to agricultural businesses.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) was introduced following the tragedy at Morecambe Bay in 2004 when 23 illegal workers lost their lives. The GLA’s aim is to protect workers by curbing exploitation and ensuring any agencies that provide workers to the agriculture, horticulture and food processing and packing sectors are regulated.
However, despite closer scrutiny, we have recently seen news stories uncovering the continued use of unlicensed gangmasters supplying labour to the agricultural sector in Lincolnshire.
Anyone who provides workers to farms should have a licence from the GLA. However, it is often the case that checks can fall by the wayside and recently, we have seen an investigation that has uncovered exploitation and pay below the national minimum wage (NMW).
The Gangmasters Act 2004 introduced a series of offences, including operating without a licence, using false documentation and engaging the services of an unlicensed gangmaster. The latter offence is particularly important for those in the agriculture and horticulture sector as there is a requirement to ensure that any labour supplier they use are licensed otherwise there is a risk of committing an offence which is punishable with a prison sentence and/or a fine.
Steps can be taken including accessing the public register on the GLA website to check the supplier is licensed, signing up to active alerts should the licence be revoked or not renewed every 12 months and initially only dealing with the named authorised person. The GLA also has the right to carry out random checks and audits and these can include visiting the labour users’ premises to ensure that workers are treated in accordance with the required standards including health and safety and paid in line with the NMW.
It is important that all labour users ensure that they have a list of the labour provided and have a clear service level agreement to govern the relationship with the supplier to outline each parties’ responsibilities. As always, we recommend that you keep clear records and if you are unsure of your legal obligations or the validity of the labour supplier then seek legal advice from a member of our employment team, or contact the GLA.