The government has announced the creation of a powerful new workers’ watchdog to protect the rights of UK workers.

Responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers, which is currently spread across 3 different bodies, will be brought under one roof, creating a new authority responsible for ensuring businesses do not break workplace rules.

The new watchdog will provide a single, recognisable port of call for workers to assert their rights and so they can blow the whistle on bad behaviour.

The body will support businesses to do the right thing by their employees by providing guidance on their obligations to staff. Increased enforcement will also aim to ensure good businesses aren’t undercut by unscrupulous rival employers who aren’t paying or treating their workers correctly.

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As well as enforcing all existing powers belonging to the 3 agencies, the new body will have a new ability to ensure vulnerable workers get the holiday pay and statutory sick pay they are entitled to, without having to go through a lengthy employment tribunal process.

Business minister Paul Scully said: “The vast majority of businesses want to do right by their staff, but there are a minority who seem to think the law doesn’t apply to them. Exploitative practices like modern slavery have no place in society.

“This new workers’ watchdog will help us crack down on any abuses of workers’ rights and take action against companies that turn a blind eye to abuses in their supply chains, while providing a one-stop shop for employees and businesses wanting to understand their rights and obligations.

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The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed the announcement, with chief executive James Lowman commenting: “Convenience stores provide local, secure and flexible jobs to hundreds of thousands of people across the UK and play a key role in the labour market and wider economy.

“We welcome the creation of a single enforcement body and believe that this will bring some much needed clarity to enforcement across different aspects of employment law. It is important that the Government works in partnership with businesses, including convenience retailers, providing clear guidance, support and intelligence-led enforcement activity.”

The government’s full announcement can be read here and the submission from ACS on establishing a single enforcement body for employment rights is available here.

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