A regulator has called for powers to clamp down on the growing exploitation of migrant labourers in the care sector.
Paul Whitehouse, chair of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which regulates the supply of labour in industries including agriculture, said there was a strong case for extending its remit into the care sector, amid concerns that illegal gangmasters are increasingly exploiting workers in care homes.
He said: “It’s a concern that we have got unregulated people dealing with vulnerable people.”
Since 2005, those that supply labour to the agriculture, forestry, horticulture, shellfish gathering and food processing and packaging industries have needed to be licensed by the GLA, which enforces standards on working conditions.
Whitehouse said that even when the authority was set up it was evident that its legal remit only covered 25% of illegal gangmaster activity.
Illegal gangmasters supply cheap labour to industries, often breaking employment laws, paying below minimum wage or putting people to work in dangerous conditions.
Earlier this week, Ian Japp, the head of the GLA’s investigations in Scotland, told the Scottish Parliament’s equal opportunities committee that he hoped the GLA’s remit would have been extended by now, raising the care sector as a possible area of expansion.
The committee is carrying out an inquiry into trafficking and migration.
Margaret Mitchell, convener of the equal opportunities committee, said: “We were always aware of the exploitation in agriculture; it has come as a surprise that it extends to the care sector.”
Mitchell said the committee would be questioning the Scottish government on its efforts to combat exploitation in the care sector, when a minister appears before the committee.