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Labour users throughout the UK are being advised by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) on issues around employing Bulgarian and Romanian workers from unlicensed gangmasters ahead of immigration rule changes in 2014.
Limited numbers of nationals from these two countries have been entitled to work in the UK in recent years under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS).
However, from 1 January 2014, Bulgarians and Romanians will have the legal right to live and work in Britain under Europe’s ‘freedom of movement’ rules. The law change gives them the same rights as other accession states.
As a result, there may be an increase in overseas companies offering to supply workers from Romania and Bulgaria to perform roles in the UK.
The GLA is keen to issue a reminder to UK labour users that a valid gangmaster’s licence is required by any business – from home or overseas – supplying workers into the authority’s regulated sector.
This applies to workers in agriculture, horticulture, food and drink processing and packaging or shellfish gathering.
It is a criminal offence both to act as a gangmaster without a licence and to employ workers provided by an unlicensed operator. Either offence can lead to a custodial sentence.
It is therefore imperative that UK labour users ensure any company approaching them with an intention to supply workers holds a current and valid GLA licence.
If labour users discover that their labour supplier does not hold a licence they are encouraged to inform the GLA’s intelligence team. Reporting unlicensed labour suppliers could help prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers. Any information given will be treated in the strictest confidence and will be passed on to labour inspectorates in the relevant countries.
A useful indicator of whether a labour provider is legitimate are the Minimum Charge Rates. These are published on the GLA website and give an indication of the amounts users should expect to be charged for workers.