The law applies to suppliers of temporary labor to agriculture and food processing operations.The law makes it illegal for businesses to employ workers through unlicensed gangmasters, privateindividuals or companies that supply labour to industries. Registration and licensing began earlierthis year in preparation for the coming into force of the law on 1 October.
Those who use workers or services provided by an unlicensed gangmaster face a prison sentence ofup to 51 weeks and a maximum fine of £5,000. Gangmasters who continue to trade without a licence willface potential penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Up to 600,000 workers will be protected from exploitation by rogue employers with theintroduction of gangmaster licensing, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)has said.
The newly formed Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GAL) started accepting licence applications inApril.
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) was one of the lobby groups campaigning to bring gangmastersunder regulation. The push came after the tragedy at Morecambe Bay on 5 February 2004, when 23Chinese migrant workers drowned picking cockles.
Victoria Brown, a spokesperson for the Food and Drink Federation, previously toldFoodProductionDaily.com that the processing industry welcomes the licensing system.
"The industry uses outside labour to support the seasonal fluctuations in ourproduction," she said. "We always work with licensed legitimate suppliers of labourand we will continue to do so."
Licences will not be needed by those supplying labour to retailers, caterers or wholesalers. Alsoexcluded are the short-term loans of workers between farms, the supply of individual specialist farmworkers and the supply of labour to process non-farm products that include an agriculturalcomponent, such as cosmetics.