Attention all farmers

The Gangmasters (Licencing) Act 2004 and regulations made pursuant to it were the legislative reaction to the tragic deaths of at least 21 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay on the night of 5th February 2004. The Act regulates individuals and businesses supplying workers to the agricultural, horticultural and shellfish harvesting industries and related packaging operations. Such operations must now be registered with the Gangmasters Licencing Authority and will be required to hold and maintain a Gangmasters’ Licence. The GLA has prescribed minimum standards which licence holders must adhere to and the Act contains provision for revoking licences from those who cease to fulfil the requirements of being “fit and proper persons”.

New criminal offences have been created which apply not only to those supplying labour without a licence in the regulated sectors but also to end users. This creates a real danger for those who are unaware of the new licencing regime. Unfortunately for such individuals, it is cardinal principle of English law that “ignorance of the law excuses no one”. It does not help that the new layer of regulation has not been particularly well publicised.

The evidence suggests that the GLA are beginning to assert their authority more vigourously, perhaps in the hope avoiding the Government’s spending axe. The first successful prosecutions for the “consumer” offence came in the autumn of 2010. We are aware that other prosecutions are ongoing.  Before taking on agency workers in the sectors mentioned, we would at the very least advise our clients to check on that the business offering workers is duly licenced. Printing off the entry as evidence should go some way to allowing consumers of agency labour a chance of availing themselves of the “due diligence” defence.

There has been some discussion of extending the Gangmasters Licencing regime to further sectors of the economy. Please contact Dynes for more details.

Dyne Solicitors Limited – 01829 773100,

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