One of the UK’s biggest chicken catching businesses has had its Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) licence revoked for unlawful treatment of its staff.
Victor Foster Poultry Services (VFPS) was granted a GLAA licence in 2006 to supply farmworkers for catching chickens, which were then sent for processing and vaccination.
The company, which is based in Northern Ireland and operates throughout the UK, was found to have breached the GLAA’s licensing standards in three critical areas, and will have to close down within weeks.
VFPS was unwilling to comply with the standards and had shown a wholesale disregard for the licensing scheme, the GLAA said.
The business failed to show its workers were being paid accurately and taking adequate rests during their shifts, and workers stated they had not received copies of their contracts.
On one occasion, GLAA inspectors found a worker completed an 18-hour shift and had less than six hours’ break before starting a 19-hour shift.
VFPS appealed the authority’s decision to revoke its licence, claiming that it was disproportionate as it had rectified all the issues highlighted during the inspection.
However, the appeal was dismissed at a hearing held in Nottingham from 8 to 10 October.
Judge Peter Britton supported the GLAA’s position that compliance with the licensing standards must be demonstrated at the time of inspection, not at a later date.
Charlotte, Woodliffe, GLAA head of licensing, said: “This is a tremendous result for our hard-working licensing and compliance teams.
“We are pleased that the judge upheld our original decision and agreed with our assessment that there were several key breaches of our licensing standards.”
VFPS has 28 days from the decision to wind up the business before the licence is revoked. Any trading after this date would be considered a criminal offence.
New starter tips for employers
- A written statement within two months of starting work is a legal minimum and must contain certain information.
- A more formal contract helps both employer and worker.
- Checks on right to work in the UK are a legal requirement.
- Also check and copy necessary documents, such as licences and qualifications.
- Comply with National Minimum Wage and Working Time Regulations requirements.
- Offer a thorough induction process.
- Consider offering eligible team members a workplace pension.