Procurement should work with HR to tackle labour abuse

Procurement professionals should work with human resources to ensure recruitment agencies are compliant with UK labour laws.

Speaking to SM, Keith Rosser, chair of charity SAFERjobs, said instances of labour market abuse by recruitment agencies were on the rise and the procurement function could play a role to tackle the issues. 

“Procurement professionals already have a duty to make sure they are selecting a compliant supply chain free of modern slavery and labour abuses, but this can also be extended to their company’s recruitment supply chain and the agencies they choose to work with to hire personnel,” he said. 

“If the company’s HR department are using recruitment companies, then the procurement function could use their expertise to make sure they too are free of labour abuse that may not always be criminal or in a breach of legislation, but may be unprofessional.” 

SAFERjobs, a charity set up by the Metropolitan Police to help tackle labour market abuse, offers advice to job seekers, recruitment companies and organisations using recruiters who find instances of labour abuse. 

Rosser said along with modern slavery, labour market abuses include fake jobs that serve only to collect personal details from jobseekers, recruitment agencies not fulfilling their obligations and people trapped in employment that costs them more than their wages. 

He said the SAFERjobs database could provide procurement and HR with a list of agencies that are safe to work with, or validate an existing recruiter.

“The procurement function regularly checks to see if their major suppliers are accredited for their environmental impact and modern slavery laws and this can again be extended to the HR side with the companies they get to supply their labour,” he said. 

“We obviously have organisations that aren’t on our database because they’ve had action taken against them, so if a supplier is on our database that is another way of ensuing that they are a compliant company.”

He added that once a recruiter has been chosen, the charity could also be useful if issues arise in the future. 

“I guess its hard for procurement professionals to make a decision and choose a supplier based on limited information and based on what a potential supplier is telling you – I would imagine in a bid process, everyone would say they are doing the right thing,” he said.

“But if the company suddenly finds themselves in a situation where a recruiter has not been compliant with labour law, such as supplying you with staff that don’t have a right to work or it has mistreated staff, then there is a channel where they can report the issue.”

He said once a complaint had been made the charity would contact the offender and relevant authority – the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate or the Metropolitan Police.

“When we asked companies that use recruitment companies, ‘Did you know if someone supplies you with a worker that doesn’t have the right to work or the right visa, that in breach of the law and should be reported?’ 99% said they didn’t know who to report it to, so that tells us that companies are seeing these things happening and there are recruiters supplying workers they shouldn’t but no one actually knows what to do next.”

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