Belfast Telegraph

Funding for workers' rights agency 'cut by 50%'

Funding for the Government agency which makes sure that workers' rights are complied with has been cut by more than 50% in recent years, according to a new study.

Labour said the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS), which works with employment agencies, employers and workers, does not have enough resources.

Its funding has been cut by 53% over the past six years, with a budget today of only £500,000, it was found. Labour said this has led to cuts in staffing of 70% over the same period, with full-time equivalent staff falling to nine.

At one point in November 2013, staffing levels fell to a low of just two, according to the study. Despite complaints rising by a fifth between 2011 and 2016, the number of inspections carried out by the EAS has fallen by over half, said Labour, adding that the agency failed to bring a single prosecution forward or seek any prohibitions on unscrupulous employers in the past year.

Labour MP Ian Lavery, who is leading the party's Workplace 2020 initiative on employment, said: "This analysis demonstrates the Government's unwillingness to stand up for working people. This Tory record is a scandal.

"Despite the Government's rhetoric on irresponsible capitalism, and tackling unscrupulous employers in the wake of the Sports Direct inquiry, it is clear that they have undermined the work of the very agency charged with investigating breaches in employment agency practices.

"The Government is leaving too many workers at the whim of unscrupulous employers."

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it was appointing a new enforcement director to help drive compliance.

A spokesman said: "Following a consultation last year, we are taking a number of steps including appointing a statutory director of labour market enforcement who will set priorities for enforcement bodies and drive a new, overarching and collaborative approach to labour market enforcement across the entire spectrum of non-compliance.

"These measures will continue to guarantee workers have a level playing field and ensure the most vulnerable in society are protected."