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New Single Helpline to Protect Vulnerable Workers


BIS Department for Business Innovation and Skills - Expert Author

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Issued 21 September 2009

Vulnerable workers will be able to seek advice about their workplace rights and report abuses of those rights through a new helpline launched by Business Minister Pat McFadden today.

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

It has been developed in cooperation with employers, trade unions and the different enforcement agencies across Government.

The employment rights in question are:

National Minimum Wage Agricultural Minimum Wage Working Time (48 hour average working week) Employment agency standards Gangmaster licensing

Previously calls on each of these rights were taken by five separate Government bodies. Workers can now report abuses of these rights to one point of contact that can address multiple complaints.

The launch of the single helpline comes as a new poll showed that nearly half of people (48 per cent) wrongly thought employment agencies can charge workers a fee for finding them a job.

Business Minister, Pat McFadden said:

“This Government has done a lot to improve rights at work but it’s also essential to make sure these rights are properly enforced. A simple system for reporting abuses and giving advice and information to employers and workers is a critical part of that.

“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”.

The helpline is based in Manchester and staffed by specialist, trained advisors able to offer help and advice. Information is then passed to the relevant enforcement body to take further action where appropriate.


1. The helpline proposal was an outcome from Pat McFadden’s Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum which reported last year. This work is overseen by the Fair Employment Enforcement Board (FEEB) which includes the CBI, TUC, FSB, Unite, CAB, REC, and representatives from the enforcement agencies.

2. The helpline number is 0800 917 2368. The textphone number is 0800 121 4042. Information is also available on and

3. The National Minimum Wage is enforced by HM Revenue and Customs, the Agricultural Minimum Wage by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Working Time (48 hour average working week) by the Health and Safety Executive (and local authorities), Employment agency standards by BIS’s Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS) and Gangmaster licensing by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). The wider set of employment rights (e.g. holiday pay, grievances) is enforced through application by an individual to an employment tribunal.

4. Free advice on wider employment matters is available from Acas, the employment relations service. Their helpline, 08457 47 47 47, gives confidential, impartial advice and guidance on a wide range of work rights. Acas also helps employers and employees settle claims to employment tribunals.

5. The over arching awareness raising campaign is in the second of its three years. The first year targeted agency workers, and led to an increase of 300 per cent in calls to the EAS helpline.

6. On 1 October 2009 the new rates for the National Minimum wage will come into effect. The rate is rising to £5.80 per hour for workers aged 22 and over, £4.83 for 18-21 year olds and £3.57 for those aged 16 and 17. From 1 October 2009 new agricultural minimum wage rates also apply from £5.81 per hour for workers of school leaving age and above.

7. A “vulnerable worker” is defined as someone who has little knowledge of their rights, finds it hard to access advice, and does not have the capacity to protect themselves against rights abuses.

8. The poll results are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2462 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st - 2nd September 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

9. The Fair Treatment at Work Survey, published by BIS on 11 September 2009, provides further information on people’s knowledge and awareness of employment rights. It supports the view that there are a number of vulnerable groups who are less aware of their rights than the general population.

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.


Matthew Barker
Phone: 020 7215 5946

About the Author

© Crown Copyright. Material taken from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. Reproduced under the terms and conditions of the Click-Use Licence.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-09-22 14:49:37 in Employee Articles

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