Farmers struggling to meet labour requirements have been warned against using unlicensed gangmasters following a crackdown by Britain’s anti-slavery body.
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) said it had opened 200 new investigations into human trafficking over the past five months, with poultry farms and food processing plants some of those being probed.
Robert James, associate solicitor at Thrings, said the number of new investigations was significant.
“The increased scrutiny is a product of two things: an increased budget to pursue enforcement, coupled with increased investigatory and prosecution powers,” said Mr James.
“The current wave of investigations shows no sign of diminishing.
“From a farmer’s point of view, as a labour user, the GLAA recommends you should check the GLAA register to ensure your labour provider is properly licensed, conduct an audit if necessary, have a record of all workers on site, and report any potential breaches of the licensing conditions to the GLAA if you are in any doubt.”
Mr James said farmers should not be surprised to encounter a routine inspection of their premises.
He added: “This should not be seen as a sign of a problem, as the purpose of the visit is to check that the workers are being treated (by the labour provider) in line with the licensing standards.
“In addition, the GLAA’s role extends to criminal investigation. Using an unlicensed labour provider is a criminal offence, and is likely to be met by an enforcement notice being issued.
"If you continue to use the unlicensed gangmaster after being put on notice, the GLAA will look at prosecution which carries serious sanctions.”