GLAA Q&A in full
12th June 2020
Earlier this week (Tuesday June 9), the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) held a Q&A session with stakeholders and members of the public asking us questions about our organisation and how we tackle labour exploitation.
Director of Resources Dan Scully, Head of Prevention Frank Hanson, and Head of Regulation Nicola Ray were on hand to answer your questions for an hour.
Due to the level of demand, we were unable to answer all the questions in that amount of time. Below is a list of the questions submitted, with answers now provided for all of them:
What (if any) do you see as being possible issues around forced labour in respect of COVID-19?
We have operated as close to business as usual as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, with investigations and inspections continuing. There have been some practical difficulties to overcome – as you can imagine, conducting investigations and speaking to workers while following the social distancing requirements is a challenge in itself.
As an intelligence-led organisation, we rely on the public’s help to tackle forced labour. This is obviously harder for people to do while they have been staying at home over recent months. That’s why it’s more important than ever for you to be aware of the signs of exploitation and report your concerns to us.
We also have to look ahead and be ready to adapt to any changes in the labour market as we slowly begin to move out of lockdown. For example, in agriculture and food production, we are aware of the pressures farmers and growers face in picking and harvesting crops. We know that as the crisis begins to subside, there will remain uncertainties about the availability of foreign workers and the booking of future travel. This could create the conditions in which exploitation can occur if we are not alive to these risks and ready to put a stop to them.
My employer has exploited thousands of migrants [legal and illegal] over the years. They are still in business and have grown rapidly. Why are these employers still in business?
This is very concerning to hear. I would strongly encourage you to get in touch with us about this. If you can provide as much information as possible, that will help our intelligence and enforcement teams carry out full investigations and, ultimately, stop these employers from being in business.
You can call our intelligence team and report your concerns in confidence by calling 0800 4320804. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, the Modern Slavery Helpline has a 24-hour hotline to call. The number for that is 08000 121700.
The GLAA does fantastic work to protect us migrants, but would be more successful if they facilitate access to workplace for migrants’ organisations. We would cooperate more(fear)
We are keen to work with migrants’ organisations where there is the opportunity to join forces to protect vulnerable and exploited workers.
A lot of the work we can do here is around preventing exploitation from taking place to begin with. This means helping people understand their rights at work, how to spot the signs of exploitation, and knowing how to contact us if you have concerns.
We are always looking at how we can reach out into communities across the country to spread this message. We firmly believe that modern slavery or some form of labour exploitation exists in every community, so it is only right that our response to this challenge has a strong community-focus.
This has taken the form of direct engagement like this, educational raising courses such as the pioneering year-long project with Boston College in the 2018-19 academic year, and events with businesses, faith leaders, and the voluntary sector like one we held at De Montfort University in Leicester last October.
If you have any ideas about how we can improve and enhance our engagement, we would love to hear from you as this will help us with our prevention activity moving forward.
Many of us see GLAA as the government = the police, or the best friend of employers. Many in community don't trust you, so say nothing. We trust migrants’ organisations.
We are an arm’s length body of the Home Office so that means we are a government organisation. It’s crucially important that we work closely with our colleagues in law enforcement and government to tackle criminal activity which, to put it bluntly, devastates people’s lives.
Similarly, it’s the right thing for us to do to develop positive relationships with legitimate employers so they have confidence that we are there to help them stay compliant and look after their workers. Having responsible and ethical businesses on side also means that we can direct our resources more effectively towards those who perhaps do not follow our regulations as closely as they should.
That being said, our number one priority is to protect vulnerable workers. This is something we take extremely seriously. We understand that some people may be slightly hesitant to trust us and we appreciate that reporting concerns requires a lot of courage and bravery.
I know it’s easy for me to say, but I want you to feel confident that you can trust us. Our confidential reporting hotline means that your reports to us are in the strictest confidence and will be fully investigated by our intelligence team, with the primary aim of identifying and protecting potential victims of labour exploitation.
We agree that migrants’ organisations do excellent work in supporting vulnerable workers and we are keen to build on our existing relationships with them.
We report illegal practices to the GLAA - especially those operating abroad, and nothing seems to happen. We have provided evidence and they are still licensed.
We value your reports and intelligence as it enables us to identify where businesses may be operating outside of the law. We can’t always tell you if we have taken action against businesses but we would urge you to keep sharing this information.
The focus of the GLAA seems to be to audit good farms and LPs as they are easy to check and not tackle to big illegal operators as it is hard. Is this policy?
We take a risk-based approach to inspection and will inspect where there is evidence of non-compliance arising from intelligence. If you have evidence of non-compliance with the law then please share it with us.
If the GLAA can award a licence to overseas LPs then they have to be able to travel abroad to audit and check them. Is a change in policy planned to do this?
We regulate the supply of labour in to the UK so we have been inspecting labour providers from overseas for many years. Normally, we require overseas labour providers to travel to the UK for the inspection to take place.
Given the new rules on quarantine, we will be reviewing this practice and take a risk-based approach to inspection. Inspections may be conducted using online systems such as video-conferencing.
Is it possible to provide a blacklist of LPs and farms that have been investigated to allow others to not risk running foul of the same bad organisations?
We provide information on our operational work through press releases and information on our website.
Labour users are also advised to subscribe to our active check process. This ensures that they receive updates on the licence status of any licence holder they use so that they do not use an unlicensed supplier. Labour users can also be proactive and check with their labour providers if they appear on the inspection list to find out if any issues were raised by the GLAA.
We would encourage businesses who come across labour providers or labour users who do not operate within the law to contact our intelligence team.
Is there an identifiable victim care pathway you use when you identify potential victims of trafficking?
We have a duty of care towards all victims of labour exploitation we identify during our operational activity. That’s why we have a dedicated Victim Care Policy which our senior leadership team regularly reviews to ensure it remains up to date.
Potential slavery and/or trafficking victims will be referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) or Duty to Notify (MS1) process if they do not wish to be accepted into the NRM.
We appoint a lead officer for victim support in each case, providing potential victims with a single point of contact and ensuring they have access to the support that they need.
If a potential victim has entered the NRM, we will maintain contact with them throughout the investigation and any criminal or civil proceedings.
Do you think licensing decreases the risk of modern slavery? If so, do you have any say in being able to license unlicensed sectors eg. car washes to prevent MS?
We have operated a licensing system in the fresh produce sector (agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering, and associated processing and packaging) since we were formed in 2005. Licensing has proved to be very effective in driving up standards in these sectors over the last 15 years.
We are open to discussions about whether our licensing system could be extended into other sectors, how this would work in practice, and how it would be adequately funded and resourced. Some sectors that have been suggested for licensing in the past have a similar business model, as a business to business supply of labour. Others, such as car washes and nail bars, present different challenges, as they are a business to consumer model. So licensing of such sectors could be very different if it was required. That is why we also look at voluntary schemes that may assist in prevention of exploitation within certain industry sectors.
While licensing remains a very effective way of tackling labour exploitation in these sectors, it is by no means the only tool available to us and our partners. In 2017, we launched the Construction Protocol, which has seen more than 100 of the biggest organisations in the sector sign up to work in partnership with us to protect vulnerable workers and eradicate modern slavery. Industry-led initiatives such as this are effective in engaging businesses with the issue of labour exploitation and empowering them to work with us to come up with solutions to make their workplaces slavery-free.
The Construction Protocol was followed one year later by a similar protocol dedicated to the textiles sectors. Discussions are also ongoing about whether further protocols can be developed in other areas of the labour market where licensing may not be as effective or viable as it is in the GLAA-regulated sectors.
How many hand car wash operators have signed with the Responsible Car Wash Scheme since its pilot in March 2019, and how many have been accredited?
We have supported the Responsible Car Wash Scheme since it was launched and were responsible for helping to develop its Code of Practice.
Along with the GLAA, the scheme is supported by the police, HM Revenue and Customs, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, the charity Unseen, and national hand car wash operator Waves.
Five major supermarkets (Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose) have all signed up to the scheme to ensure that hand car washes on their sites are compliant.
We as the GLAA do not run the scheme but work closely with the Responsible Car Wash Scheme to promote good working practices, raise awareness of the code, and with the other founder members, look at how the accreditation scheme could potentially expand in the future.
More information on the Responsible Car Wash Scheme can be found on its website.
With wage theft valued at the rate of £3bn per year, could you describe what if any help you can offer workers to enforce their statutory rights?
This is a staggering figure which really highlights the economic cost of labour exploitation to ordinary workers. For workers in our regulated sectors, our inspections will check whether businesses are paying them the correct wages and holiday pay. In the last financial year, we recovered more than £166,000 for workers, an increase of around £70,000 on the previous year. This shows significant progress but clearly there is so much more to do.
I would strongly encourage workers to be aware of their rights. If they are not getting paid the National Minimum Wage, they should contact our colleagues at HM Revenue and Customs.
There are also basic questions you should ask yourselves. Do you have a contract? Are you working the correct hours? Do you get proper breaks? Are you given time-off for holidays? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you should contact us.
What will the GLAA do to prevent salary deductions, such as payroll fees that are charged to workers as “membership fees” for cards, by unlicensed businesses?
We can only act when we receives intelligence. It's really important for you to report your concerns to us. If you have information about specific businesses that are making these charges to workers then please report it and we can investigate.
Regarding seasonal agricultural work, how do labour exploitation incidents reported so far this year compare to previous years?
We are on course this year to see more referrals, emails and calls to us relating to exploitation in agriculture compared with the last three years. Indeed, by the start of June we have almost equalled the amount for the whole of 2017. This demonstrates that the issue of labour exploitation remains a significant problem but also that the public is becoming more aware of the signs of abuse and are as importantly reporting their concerns to us.
And in which part of the food & farming sector (i.e. packing, processing, picking, slaughter) are labour exploitation issues most common?
All areas of the food and farming sector are potentially susceptible to exploitation so we would encourage your listeners to be aware of the signs and report their concerns to us.
Food processing and packaging in particular is a big area for us in protecting workers and bringing offenders to justice. The vast majority of our most recent convictions across the whole of the UK labour market have taken place in this sector so it is one where we are firmly aware of the issues and are taking strong, decisive steps to address them.
Perhaps the best example of this was in December 2019 when a husband and wife were jailed after at least 41 Romanian workers were exploited. They were brought to the UK on the promise of good employment and accommodation but once here, were made to live in sub-standard housing, had their wages controlled, and were even given false identities so they could work two separate shifts at a food processing factory in Greater Manchester.
The names of the 4 companies granted temporary licences under the 'Pick for Britain' campaign.
We introduced the temporary licensing scheme in response to the COVID-19 outbreak to help support the food production sector feed the nation at this challenging time.
You can see a list of the temporary licence holders on our website. As of June 1, we have not been accepting any further applications for the scheme.
Has the GLAA ever applied for a slavery and trafficking risk order to protect an adult or child from further harm via modern slavery?
We are currently actively pursuing one but as it’s an ongoing investigation, we can’t say much more at this time. A press release will be published as and when there is more to say.
In addition, over recent years, we have made significant use of enforcement notices, Labour Market Enforcement Undertakings (LMEUs), and secured the country’s first ever Labour Market Enforcement Order (LMEO), handed out to a couple who illegally supplied workers to food factories in Leicester.
What controls would you expect labour providers to the construction industry to have to mitigate the risk of modern slavery?
Sadly, the challenge for businesses is to recognise and accept that labour exploitation and modern slavery can exist in any supply chain, in any industry and to be vigilant at all times. The construction industry is no exception and businesses can take some simple but effective steps to mitigate the risk of modern slavery.
We have vast range of resources on our website that businesses can access including our Spotting the Signs booklet. This provides a number of indicators for businesses to look out for that could suggest a person is a potential victim of modern slavery. We also welcome more signatories to our Construction Protocol, so we can continue to be an effective support for businesses in this sector who are already making progress to mitigate the risk of modern slavery.
We recognise how complex it is to effectively regulate labour markets to prevent worker exploitation. What additional powers could best benefit the GLAA's role?
We are limited to England and Wales in terms of our modern slavery powers. Quite clearly, offenders are not. It is important that there are consistent enforcement UK-wide powers to ensure effective investigation. We will be examining this particularly in relation to what a single enforcement body might mean for us as an organisation.
Can GLAA enforce unpaid holiday pay for workers who have always been denied it because employer uses bogus self-employment?
Yes we can. As we said in one of our previous answers above, in the last year we recovered £166,000 for workers in unpaid holiday pay. There’s still a lot more for us to do, but I’m content that are making progress with this.
What I would encourage you to do if you have evidence that an employer is attempting to flout these regulations, is to give our intelligence team a call on 0800 4320804 or drop them an email at email@example.com. We will treat your reports in confidence and obviously as much information as you can provide will help us out in investigating this.
What role does GLAA play in ensuring that dependent bogus self-employment models are not used to get around the areas of GLAA supervision?
If a business is supplying workers in to the sectors covered by our licensing regime then it doesn’t matter what the status of the worker is as a licence is required in any event. We will check a worker’s employment status in line with GLAA brief 18 to ensure that workers receive what they are legally entitled to.
Another question relating to agricultural workers - have you had any issues raised this year by British nationals, who are helping with the 2020 harvest?
Yes, as you can imagine there has been the potential for a lot of change in the labour market over the comparatively very short time COVID-19 has been affecting our agricultural sector. Many of the issues raised with us have been questions on process, such as how workers new to the sector manage their pay and what their entitlements are – some of these are questions for us and some we have signposted to other services and agencies.
We do recognise that lots of workers are moving around and some are perhaps working in agriculture for the first time and we would encourage anyone with information or concerns about how they or others are being treated, to contact us – this can be done confidentially through our website.
We are still deploying investigation teams and compliance officers nationally during COVID-19.
Will the GLAA commit to making their board more ethnically diverse in the coming year?
We are committed to becoming more representative of the communities we serve across the country. We know we need the best people in the team to deliver for victims and take on offenders and that means we need a diverse workforce.
GLAA Board members are appointed by Home Office ministers and the recruitment process is run by the Home Office. The government is committed to achieving greater diversity in public appointments and Margaret Beels, our Chair, has been assisting a Cabinet office initiative to try to achieve this. The GLAA Chair normally sits on the panel which advises the minister as to which candidates for Board positions are appointable. The decision as to who to appoint rests with the minister. We know that we need a Board with a wide range of skills and experience and a diversity of thinking and approach to support it in an ever changing environment.
When performing due diligence on labour agencies, what evidence can companies reasonably ask of these to provide? Eg template employment contracts etc
We would encourage businesses to use our licensing standards as a framework for ensuring compliance. Don’t be afraid to ask for evidence, a compliant business will be happy to show you.
If a labour provider is unable to evidence adequate controls in place to mitigate the risk of modern slavery, what actions do you recommend companies take?
Labour providers working with the GLAA should contact us if they feel they are struggling to assure themselves or evidence they have adequate controls in place.
There is also information available through training such as Stronger Together which will enable businesses to ensure they are compliant.
When conducting an operation, would you put safeguarding above enforcement e.g. in cases where a potential victim may have unsettled immigration status?
We recognise how complex it is to effectively regulate and police labour markets to prevent worker exploitation. Safety and safeguarding is our first priority in all cases - we will not put someone's safety at risk in order to achieve an operational outcome (e.g. make an arrest or secure evidence).
We don't administer the UK’s immigration processes so have no ability to change anyone's immigration status. Each case has to be assessed by the relevant authorities in the Home Office from that perspective.
When conducting due diligence on the supply chain, what do key suppliers of high risk materials need to demonstrate to provide assurance of adequate controls?
In addition to general supply chain standards that should be in place across the labour market in relation to pay and conditions, we would expect suppliers to demonstrate that they have clear health and safety processes in place, that their workers have had the correct training and protective equipment provided for them, and that there are clear reporting procedures for near misses or anything which could potentially be putting these vulnerable workers at risk of harm.
What documentation and evidence are needed to obtain the Responsible Car Wash Scheme badge. What monitoring is in place after the badge is awarded?
While we fully support the Responsible Car Wash Scheme and were instrumental in developing its Code of Practice, we don’t run the scheme. There’s a whole range of information on their website and I would encourage you to contact them if you have any additional questions as they are best placed to help.
What construction on-site trade have you found to have the highest prevalence of modern slavery?
The construction industry is one of the biggest sectors in the UK labour market, employing around three million people. Therefore, it’s important for us to stress that exploitation can occur in any parts of the often complex supply chains, so we encourage businesses and workers to be vigilant in helping us identify and stamp out illegitimate practices across the whole of the sector.
As labour can be provided across trades from the same/related suppliers we do not seek to highlight specific trades, rather to work with those sourcing labour and the labour providers to deliver good standards of worker protection across the sector.
How much exploitation is identified at the border when the workers are arriving, compared to on-site once the exploitation has already started?
We know that Border Force officers are always looking for the signs that someone may be vulnerable to exploitation or is being controlled. Of course, at that stage when they are arriving into the country, it won’t always be apparent.
There are multi-agency operations where we work with partners such as Border Force to raise awareness for anyone entering the UK to work about how to get help and what the signs of exploitation are. Our briefings on the latest trends in modern slavery and exploitation are shared with partners including BF as part of the ongoing work to tackle this issue.
Any work with the investment industry to ensure that Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) investing criteria check if companies have clean supply chains or have been sanctioned by GLAA?
This is an area we want to do more in, we have limited reporting on abuses in ESG funded ventures since we were took on our police-style powers in 2017. We would be interested in talking to you about your insight and looking at what opportunities there might be here to improve worker protection and prevent exploitation.
Do the GLAA inform the Home Office if they come across an illegal migrant? What if this individual is a potential victim of modern slavery?
We know one of the factors that is used to control and exploit people is where they have no right to remain in the UK and the exploiter knows this. As part of our duty of care if in the course of our work we become aware someone doesn’t have a right to remain in the UK, we work with partners in the Home Office to ensure their safety.
Does the GLAA have a hotspot map showing the prevalence of labour exploitation across the UK, particularly within their licensed sectors?
Our intelligence teams have developed industry profiles for 17 sectors of the labour market, including our licensed sectors. They provide regional breakdowns of where our intelligence indicates exploitation is most frequent, as well as the typical age and nationality of the potential victims we encounter.
These are available to read on our website.
Can you confirm that the GLAA Public Register is up to date, and is an accurate record of all companies which hold a licence?
Yes, the Public Register is up to date and is updated automatically when any changes are made. If you’re interested in a particular licence you can sign up to our active check process which will alert you if anything changes in relation to a particular licence.
Will the GLAA help migrants to get paid if the boss is not paying them even if they're here illegally?
If someone is being exploited for their labour, we will take action to protect them and ensure that they are paid what they deserve. As we outlined in one of our previous answers, we are well aware that criminals will attempt to control and exploit people who may have no right to remain in the UK. Our duty of care requires us to work with our partners at the Home Office to safeguard those who are vulnerable.
What is GLAA's policy on response times to any potential modern-day slavery issues raised, and on maintaining appropriate updates on progress with any investigation?
Our operational teams will not hesitate to act if we have intelligence indicating there are potential victims of labour exploitation. Victims and witnesses will be kept updated on investigations, with dedicated officers assigned to them. They will be informed about what is happening at each stage of a criminal or civil case, as well as being provided with support if they are required to attend court.
More widely, we will issue press releases as investigations progress, from the time of arrest, to when suspects are charged, and following any convictions.
How much evidence does the GLAA need to have before deploying staff to inspect a workplace in an unlicensed sector?
In our unlicensed sectors, we use our powers from the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to investigate forced or compulsory offences in England and Wales. If evidence comes to us of workers trafficked to the country for the purposes of labour exploitation, we will act swiftly and decisively to ensure that these victims are removed from any exploitative surroundings and given access to the help and support they might need.
In terms of inspecting a workplace, as an intelligence-led organisation we would need some evidence that they are either directly exploiting their workers or are in some way complicit in the exploitation of them. Our compliance powers in carrying out unannounced visits and inspections of premises apply only to our regulated sectors (agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering, food processing and packaging).
Does the GLAA have its own Modern Slavery Statement and is it on your website? I can't find it. Many public bodies do publish one.
As an organisation, all of our activity is focused on tackling modern slavery and exploitation – it is our core purpose and reason the GLAA was created, so we haven’t felt that a Modern Slavery Statement would add anything to all the information we already publish and which sets out what we do, how we do it, how we are overseen and our performance. If there is anything additional you think would be helpful to know about the GLAA we would like to hear from you.