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September 22, 2009

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Single helpline to help stamp out worker exploitation

The Government has set up a new telephone support service to provide advice on employment rights for vulnerable workers.

The new Pay and Work Rights helpline is part of a wider campaign to raise awareness of workplace rights enforced by the Government, and provides a unified point of contact for both employers and workers.

The helpline, which has been developed in partnership with employers, trades unions and various enforcement agencies, can give advice on employment agency standards, gangmaster licensing, working-time legislation, the National Minimum Wage, and the Agricultural Minimum Wage. Previously, five separate government bodies provided information on these areas individually.

Launching the single helpline, business minister, Pat McFadden, said: “By consolidating the current complex system of different helplines for different issues into one single number, we are making it easier for workers to report abuses and for government to respond.

“We want to transfer the burden of navigating the system from the worker to the government. This is an important step and we are determined that the recession does not become an excuse to deny people their basic rights at work.”

Union leaders welcomed the development, declaring that the helpline has a vital role to play in the fight against worker exploitation. Unite deputy-general secretary, Jack Dromey, said: “Fairness must not be the first casualty of recession. Millions have rights but they are not enforced. Now, at last, the enforcement agencies will work together, with workers able to make one call to get the help they need.

“The clear message to rogue employers who exploit and undercut is that there will be no hiding place.”

The TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, added that the helpline should also facilitate increased coordination between enforcement agencies, ensuring more effective enforcement of the law.

Said Barber: “The helpline and enforcement agencies will champion the rights of vulnerable workers, and ensure that rogue employers who flout the law do not get away with it. This will not only benefit workers across the UK but will also help employers by promoting fair competition and preventing good employers from being undercut by bad ones using unlawful practices.”

The helpline is based in Manchester and staffed by specialist, trained advisors. Information is then passed to the relevant enforcement body to take further action, where appropriate. The helpline number is 0800 917 2368.

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