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GLAA announces licensing changes

10 November 2017

The UK’s fresh produce sector has welcomed changes to licensing regulations for businesses that carry out fresh produce packaging.

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) which licenses the processing and packaging of food from agriculture and fishery, has announced it has reviewed the rules around some packaging of food products.

The GLAA says the move will reduce unnecessary burdens on businesses that are otherwise compliant. It says the changes, which have been discussed with the Food Produce Consortium (FPC), are sensible and proportionate.

Under the current regulations, businesses could apply for a licensing exemption if they employs the worker; own, hire or lease tools and machinery necessary to do the work and own the premises where the packaging is carried out.

But all three of these had to apply before an exemption could be granted.

Now, businesses who meet the exemption in relation to packaging activities except that it uses temporary labour, will be granted a licensing exemption providing that: 

  • the business only sources its temporary labour from a GLAA licensed labour provider
  • the business subscribes to the GLAA’s active check service in respect of the labour provider(s) it uses
  • where the business meets the threshold set in the “Transparency in Supply Chains” section of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 it publishes its transparency statement, and requires the same of its sub-contractors
  • the business holds certification, which the GLAA will take into account as earned recognition, reducing the risk that the business is non-compliant e.g. BRC Global Standard for Food Safety
  • the business advises the GLAA of its business model, and receives confirmation that a licence application will not be required under this approach, providing the other criteria above are met.

Nicola Ray, the GLAA’s Director of People and Licensing, said: “Our number one priority is the protection of vulnerable workers from exploitation and one of the ways we do this is to ensure businesses operating in the regulated sector are fully compliant of the law.

“The licensing regulation within the food processing and other sectors has played a huge part in helping drive out illegitimate practices which saw workers exploited. The changes we are making to the regulations around third party packaging won’t weaken our capacity to keep doing this.

Nigel Jenney, CEO of FPC said: “Our members welcome these changes. The GLAA has recognised changes in industry practices and has reflected this in its interpretation of the licensing requirements for third party packing. A significant number of our members, who are already using GLAA licensed services, would have had to incur the cost and resource of licensing themselves as labour providers, were it not for the GLAA’s sensible and pragmatic approach.”

If you consider that the licensing requirements should be amended for your business then you should contact the GLAA licensing team and request a packaging activity questionnaire.

If you are unsure whether a licence is required please refer to the document Guidance on who needs a licence, contact the GLAA helpline on 0345 602 5020 or email licensing@gla.gsi.gov.uk

 

Enforcement

It became illegal to operate without a licence on 1 October 2006. However, the GLAA takes a proportionate approach to enforcement where it identifies that unlicensed activity is occurring. Criminal investigation may also be required in relation to any person or company who uses workers or services supplied to them by an unlicensed business.

The GLAA will consider the following factors in determining whether a criminal investigation is appropriate, and whether prosecution, or a labour market enforcement undertaking is appropriate and is considered to be in the public interest:

  • whether the application arose after an investigation had commenced
  • whether the work was an activity that required clarification, or had recently been clarified as work that requires a licence
  • whether there has been any labour exploitation
  • whether the labour provider is compliant with the licensing standards.

The second bullet point above is particularly relevant to any information concerning unlicensed packaging activities which require a licence, where an exemption does not apply. GLAA enforcement activity against unlicensed gangmasters is targeted according to risk, with cases alleging worker exploitation representing the highest risks.

The GLAA will take a proportionate approach to labour providers engaged in packaging at this time unless there is evidence of exploitation of workers. This position reflects the recognised need to ensure that clear guidance of the requirement to hold a licence has been issued, with time to be considered, and action taken for businesses that require a licence to take steps to apply. This position regarding enforcement will apply for a period of 12 months. After 5/11/18 the GLAA may consider a more robust response is required for those businesses that should either have obtained a licence or have sought and obtained agreement to the licensing requirements being relaxed for their circumstances.

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