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Joint Workplace Protocol for sharing information between HSE and other Government departments and agencies

OC 84/6

Summary

This guidance advises staff about the Joint Workplace Protocol for tackling illegal employment of migrant workers and the broader principles governing how we share information with other Government departments and agencies to prevent exploitation.

Introduction

Increasing attention to temporary and migrant employment issues in recent years has required HSE to work more closely with other enforcement agencies, departments, public authorities and non-governmental bodies. Consequently, questions have arisen about the ability of HSE and others to share and exchange information or intelligence in order to facilitate joined up working and promote better regulation. This focus on working in partnership is likely to continue in the foreseeable future.

Whereas HSE tends to receive and act upon information supplied by third parties, many/most other agencies/departments (including the police) act upon intelligence i.e. information which has been assessed/evaluated against specified criteria. As a result it is often the case that what HSE has to offer will be of little value to others because it has not been assessed/evaluated, whilst what they have to offer to HSE may be of little relevance or interest. However, closer collaboration with other regulators, using the principles set out in this guidance, should improve the situation over time.

The emphasis of this guidance is on the proper exchange of intelligence where permitted under the law to support targeted enforcement activity and investigations and to prevent abuse, harm or injury to workers in vulnerable conditions, including migrant workers subject to immigration control.

Action

All visiting staff should:

Background

The joint working protocol (Appendix 1) was drawn up by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) as part of its Immigration Enforcement Strategy. It aims to detect, disrupt and deter the illegal employment of migrant workers; each contributing agency (UKBA, the Employment Agency Standards (EAS) inspectorate, DWP, HMRC, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and HSE/LAs) has provided key indicators suggestive of non-compliance in workplaces covered by its remit; HSE’s suggested indicators were agreed after consultation with FOD operational divisions.

Organisation

The Protocol is only intended to cover the illegal employment of migrant workers, so is not likely to be 'activated' at the vast majority of workplaces; nor is it intended to be used other than 'passively' i.e. visiting staff should only note matters of concern to other enforcement agencies that they observe as a by-product of what they are in the workplace to do for HSE’s own, statutorily limited, purposes. Indicators of concern to other enforcement agencies should only be passed on via the Single Point of Contact (SPoC) (Head of Agriculture Waste and Recycling Sector’s Health, Education and Employment Team at the Nottingham office). No information should be passed directly to other enforcement agencies.

Other points to note

In gathering information that could identify individuals to UKBA or other agencies, staff should bear in mind the requirements of the Data Protection Act (set out below).

If indicators of concern (to UKBA) pointing to illegal employment emerge only after HSE has acquired personal data (e.g. IP/witness name/address), staff should be aware that UKBA involvement may result in rapid deportation of an IP/potential witness

It is unlikely that other departments' indicators will be ‘life or death’ issues, but it will nonetheless be important to pass on legitimate concerns as part of effective joined-up enforcement, targeting employers whose activities may expose vulnerable workers to exploitation.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: Section 28

There are a number of ways in which HSE inspectors can disclose information obtained in the exercise of their powers under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA). See Appendix 2: Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974: Section 28.

Memorandum of understanding

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is an arrangement freely entered into by HSE with other government departments, non-departmental public bodies or external agencies. It is used to formalise new or existing working arrangements when it is not necessary or desirable to provide legal authority for the acts of, or create legal obligations to, such bodies or agencies.

MoUs are widely used to set out demarcation arrangements between HSE and another body or agency in circumstances where health and safety legislation overlaps with other, more specific, legislation enforced by other authorities. They may also be used to record arrangements for co-operation with a government department or agency body.

With respect to sharing and exchanging information an MoU has been agreed setting out agreed arrangements and procedures for sharing information and intelligence with the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). Liaison with the GLA should initially be via the Single Point of Contact (SPoC) Head of Agriculture Waste and Recycling Sector’s Health, Education and Employment Team at the Nottingham office, who will liaise with the GLA SPoC at intelligence@gla.gsi.gov.uk using the GLA’s designated template for intelligence sharing.

Targeting

The protocol is only intended to cover illegal employment of migrant workers.

Diversity

Inspectors should be aware of who (in terms of diversity e.g. men, women, disabled etc) is the target group in the sector they are dealing with. Give consideration to, and factor into the approach, any issues that may surround this audience such as literacy issues, English as a second language and disability (access needs).

The Diversity & delivery intranet pages give more information on these areas and others, including the Communications and EIA toolkits.

Appendices

Updated 2013-07-11