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Stephanie Wilcox

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The reality of exploitation and gangmaster licensing: closer to home than you would think

Agriculture and rural business / 27 October 2020

A couple from Lincolnshire have recently been banned from acting as company directors for a total of 21 years following findings of exploitation of agricultural workers. We discuss this investigation and disqualification below, as well as a summary of regulations relating to gangmasters and labour abuse.

The husband and wife ran a recruitment company in Lincolnshire since 2012. This included recruitment for the agricultural industry, a sector regulated by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

In 2018, the recruitment firm began to struggle and entered into a creditors’ voluntary liquidation that year. On investigating the liquidation, the Insolvency Service learnt that six months prior to the company’s collapse, the company had been investigated by the GLAA, who had revoked its labour recruitment licence for reasons including:

—  Failure to make holiday payments to 186 employees
— Charging employees for safety equipment (which should have been provided free of charge)
—  Not providing copies of contracts to employees
—  Disclosing employees’ personal details to third parties without consent
—  Allowing employees to transport staff without valid driving licences or insurance
—  Failing to apply for the position of ‘principal authority’ in the business

The GLAA found that the husband and wife, as directors, had caused the company to abuse GLAA licensing regulations, resulting in director disqualifications for them both (and also a result of breaching previous directorship disqualifications).

What is the GLAA?
The GLAA is a Non-Departmental Public Body, whose role is to protect vulnerable and exploited workers. It works in partnership with the public, industry and other government departments to investigate reports of worker exploitation, human trafficking, forced labour and illegal labour provision, as well as offences under the National Minimum Wage and Employment Agencies Act.

Employment agencies, labour providers or gangmasters who provide workers to the agricultural sector (amongst others) must obtain a GLAA licence under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004. It is a criminal offence to supply workers without a licence or use an unlicensed labour provider.

This case is a stark reminder for those operating in the agricultural sector to be aware of the important requirements relating to gangmaster licensing, particularly in the current climate where businesses can be over-stretched. GLAA works in partnership with the police, local councils and other bodies to protect vulnerable and exploited workers.

Our Agriculture and Rural Business team has experience advising clients on gangmaster licensing requirements and key employment standards. If you would like to know more, please get in touch. 


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This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: mailinglists@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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