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Enforcing Labour Standards with Sir David Metcalf

Enforcement is a key issue in industrial relations. Non-compliance is a major issue – for being paid at least at the statutory levels, for equipment and working practices being safe. You can have all the positive legislation in the world, but effective enforcement is needed to make good intentions a day-to-day reality.

In our latest podcast, Becky and Simon consider how UK labour enforcement works. What is the relationship between HMRC, GLAA, EASI and the HSE? How many people know for what these acronyms stand, still less which parts of labour market compliance they are responsible for. If you join up the dots, do they make a coherent picture – or is it no picture at all?

We talk with David Metcalf, Director of the Office of Labour Market Enforcement, looking forward to his second annual report, due out later this month. What are the key parts to his strategy and why? And is it possible to effectively co-ordinate so may actors on the operational side of labour market enforcement – plus those such as ACAS and the LPC (more acronyms!) who have communities of interests with David on policy matters?

In a wide ranging and candid discussion, we also look at the current trends in thinking on how enforcement might develop (such as group-based ET claims*) and the restructuring of existing agencies, and anticipate a fresh consultative exercise from the government on just that point.

Documents referred to in this episode are the LME’s first report, an ETUI report on the Belgian platform workers, the Fast Fashion initiative and Sarah O’Connor’s FT report on unregulated workplaces

This and all episodes of the Unions21 podcast can be accessed here. Please do download, stream, rate, share, comment but above all, enjoy. And did you get all 8 abbreviated organisations? The answers are below.


HMRC = Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, GLAA=Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, EASI=Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, HSE=Health and Safety Executive, ACAS=Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service, LPC=Low Pay Commission, ET=Employment Tribunal

*The current statutory Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures currently provides practical guidance on how to handle grievance situations occurring in the workplace. Failure to follow the Acas Code of Practice is not an offence, however, if the guidance is not followed this can be considered by an employment tribunal when considering a case and any financial award can be adjusted by up to 25% for unreasonable failure to comply. The Code currently applies only to individual grievances, but not collective grievance processes.