New call for licensing to protect vulnerable workers

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has commended the recent spotlight on the UK Hand Car Wash industry, and its link to modern slavery, from the interim Director of Labour Market Enforcement, Matthew Taylor, who calls for mandatory licensing.

His call for a national scheme aligns with IOSH’s recent White Paper Tackling modern slavery together: the roles of government, employers, professionals and the public, which recommends the Government considers a ‘quality mark’ type label to indicate decent working conditions. 

The IOSH White Paper highlights the plight of the estimated 40.3 million victims of modern slavery around the world, 13,000 of them in the UK, stressing the need for urgent action to protect vulnerable workers.

Matthew Taylor, interim Director of Labour Market Enforcement, in his debut address last week to the Resolution Foundation, focused attention on the regulation of the UK hand car wash industry.

Matthew Taylor concluded:

“…a range of forms of non-compliance are endemic in the hand car wash sector. The problems extend beyond employment regulations to issues of health and safety and environmental protection.

 Enforcement officers I have spoken to have told me they have literally never visited a hand car wash which did not exhibit non-compliant behaviour...

Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Regulatory Engagement at IOSH, said:

“It’s encouraging that our calls to protect vulnerable workers, such as in the hand car wash industry, have been reinforced by the interim Director of Labour Market Enforcement’s speech, as the public clearly seek more assurance on this”.

IOSH’s public opinion-poll with YouGov found the overwhelming majority (81%) would welcome a ‘labelling system’ to indicate products and services have been produced by workers in good working conditions. And there is similarly strong public support for both national awareness campaigns (84%) and for training on prevention (83%).

In response to the speech, Teresa Sayers, Managing Director of the Responsible Car Wash Scheme (RCWS) said:

The RCWS will continue to work with the GLAA, the Police and Local Authorities to promote the RCWS accreditation as a pre-cursor to licensing.”

As well as exploring a labelling scheme, IOSH has called for the extension of gangmasters licensing to other at-risk sectors and for stronger requirements to improve transparency and modern slavery disclosures.


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