It’s not often that The Archers and recruitment law coincide, but just recently it has. Well, in my world anyway.

Modern Day Slavery has made it into Radio 4’s long-running soap opera over the last year or so, and recently came to a head when Philip Moss was exposed to Ambridge as a gangmaster for using slave labour on his building sites. In short, Philip Moss was a builder who scooped up homeless teenaged lads living on the streets and made them work without pay on his building jobs, leading to disastrous and life changing consequences. Putting to one side whether this story line is a little far-fetched for sleepy Ambridge, Radio 4 are always brilliant at bringing issues like this to the fore. (Anyone remember Rob Tichenor’s coercive control over Helen Archer?!)

The word “slavery” can conjure up images of shackled 17th Century workers, something abolished long ago, but simply means worker exploitation, forced labour, and human trafficking – all of which remain sadly prevalent in the 21st Century. Slavery also includes offences under the  National Minimum Wage and Employment Agencies Acts, which is where, together with the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 and the Modern Slavery Act 2015, it crosses over into recruitment law.

The Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 established the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) to set up and operate a licensing scheme for recruitment companies supplying workers to specific regulated sectors. It also created the criminal offences of acting as an unlicensed gangmaster and using an unlicensed gangmaster. In May 2016, the GLA became the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and through their own inspections and reports from the public, industry, and other government departments, they continue to investigate and protect against the exploitation of workers.

One of the primary purposes of GLAA licensing is to ensure that workers receive the pay, benefits, treatment, and conditions to which they are entitled by law. The role of the GLAA is to make sure that whichever employment agency or business is supplying the workers can’t undercut, or be undercut by, other recruitment companies who pay less than minimum wage or avoid paying tax/national insurance.

Any recruitment company that supplies workers to sectors such as agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering, and the processing and packaging of food and drink, must have a GLAA licence. All workers, temporary or permanent are covered by the licensing scheme; and a licence is needed for any work carried out in the UK, even if the ultimate client or the recruitment company is located overseas.

If the employment agency or business does not hold a GLAA licence it’s a criminal offence to supply workers to those sectors, the maximum penalty for which is 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine. Although it sounds harsh, in my opinion it this a welcome preventative strike to combat something that most-right minded people thought had been abolished many years ago. And I am looking forward to what happens to Philip Moss…!

If you would like any advice on whether your recruitment company needs a GLAA licence or not, or on any aspect of the law affecting recruitment, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 0333 400 4499 or at

Lucy Tarrant

Legal services for the Recruitment Industry