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Company refused licence after judge finds workers ‘open to potential exploitation’

14 June 2019

A recruitment agency which was refused a Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) licence has lost its appeal against the decision after a judge said workers at the company were left open to potential exploitation.

Boston-based Grand Labour Agency Ltd was refused a licence in September 2018, with the GLAA’s decision upheld in court last month.

The company’s prospective principal authority Ian Tebbs was identified as one of the people in charge of Go Solutions Ltd, a recruitment agency also from Boston which had its GLAA licence revoked in December 2017.

An inspection of Go Solutions Ltd found 12 breaches of the GLAA’s licensing standards, five of which were serious enough on their own to cause the business to fail the inspection.

Despite seeking to downplay his involvement at Go Solutions Ltd, GLAA inspectors discovered an email stating that Mr Tebbs had let two members of staff go. Bank statements also revealed that he was paid wages comparable to the principal authority Gavin Overton.

In taking this into account, the GLAA considered that he had not been candid and truthful in his dealings with the agency, and therefore had not acted in a fit and proper manner.

During interviews, Mr Tebbs also failed to demonstrate an understanding of some of the key elements of the licensing standards.

Grand Labour Agency Ltd, of Lindis Road, Boston, Lincolnshire, appealed the GLAA’s decision. However, its appeal was dismissed following a hearing held in Nottingham on 13 May.

In her written judgment issued on 5 June, Employment Judge Elizabeth Heap said that it was “particularly concerning” that the organisation failed to display an understanding of issues such as minimum wage legislation and entitlements such as statutory sick pay and rest breaks.

She said: “Such a lack of understanding leaves workers open to potential exploitation and a real risk that they would not be receiving the remuneration, benefits and basic levels of health and safety to which they are legitimately entitled.”

GLAA Head of Licensing Charlotte Woodliffe said: “The judge was extremely clear in her findings that we made the only decision available to us in refusing Grand Labour Agency Ltd a licence.

“We expect our licence holders to have a full working knowledge of our licensing standards so that we are satisfied that they are not putting their employees at risk of exploitation.

“We also expect them to be candid and truthful in their dealings with us. Unfortunately, we considered this had not been the case and acted swiftly to refuse Grand Labour Agency Ltd a licence.”

This ruling comes as the GLAA revoked Sunrise East Ltd’s licence with immediate effect after investigations revealed it was being managed by Mr Tebbs and Mr Overton, and Ricky Gutteson, also associated with Go Solutions Ltd.

Acting as a gangmaster without a GLAA licence is a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine.

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