Guidance

Gangmasters Licensing Authority

Licensing and code of practice for gangmasters supplying workers to the agricultural, horticultural and shellfish-gathering industries.

Introduction

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) protects workers from exploitation in agriculture, shellfish gathering and food and drink processing and packaging. The GLA operates a licensing scheme for those acting as a “gangmaster”.

This guide will explain the GLA licensing standards and how to apply for a licence. It will also explain who is exempt from holding a licence and the penalties that apply if you do not have a licence.

Who needs a licence

The GLA regulates labour providers or ‘gangmasters’ who provide workers to the following sectors:

  • agriculture
  • forestry
  • horticulture
  • shellfish-gathering
  • food processing and packaging

If you are a gangmaster or an employment agency, you will need a licence if you:

  • supply labour for the licensed sectors in the UK
  • use workers to provide services in the licensed sectors
  • use workers to gather shellfish

The term “gangmaster” is defined in Section 4 of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004.

All workers, temporary or permanent are covered by the licensing scheme. A licence is needed for any work carried out in the UK, even if the business is located overseas. Read Labour providers based outside the UK for more information on supplying workers if your business is overseas.

It is a criminal offence to operate without a licence. Detailed guidance on who needs a licence is available on the GLA website, or by contacting the GLA helpline on 0845 602 5020.

Register of licence holders

The GLA public register lists the labour providers who are licensed, or who have applied for a licence. The register can be checked online on the GLA website or by phoning the helpline on 0845 602 5020. It is an offence to operate without a licence or to use an unlicensed labour provider.

If a labour provider fails to meet or comply with the licensing standards they will lose their licence. A register of revoked licences is also available on the GLA website. The businesses listed cannot legally supply labour in the GLA sectors under the licence number shown.

Applying for a GLA licence

You can apply for a GLA licence online on the GLA website or by telephoning the helpline on 0845 602 5020. Please read the GLA’s Application form guidance before applying for a licence.

You will be assessed against the licensing standards which are the legal requirements that protect workers from poor treatment and exploitation.

Renewing a licence

A licence will usually be granted for 12 months. The GLA will contact you before the expiry date to remind you that your licence is due for renewal. You must renew your licence before your current one expires otherwise a new application must be made. Operating without a licence is an offence.

Licence fees

The current fee levels are available on the GLA website or you can ring the helpline. Please be aware that fees are non refundable.

Annual turnover Fee band Application or renewal fee Inspection fee
£10 million or more A £2,600 £2,900
From £5 million to less than £10 million B £2,000 £2,400
From £1 million to less than £5 million C £1,200 £2,150
Less than £1 million D £400 £1,850

Licensing standards

The licensing standards set out the conditions that you must meet to get a GLA licence.

The standards are all legal requirements to protect workers from poor treatment and exploitation. They cover issues such as working hours, training, terms and conditions, the national minimum wage and transport to ensure labour providers meet the basic safety and welfare standards.

There are also conditions attached to the licence holder and Principal Authority to check they are ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence.

There are 8 standards covering the following subject areas:

  • Fit and Proper Test
  • Pay and Tax matters
  • Prevention of Forced Labour and Mistreatment of Workers
  • Accommodation
  • Working conditions
  • Health and Safety
  • Recruiting Workers and Contractual Arrangements
  • Sub-Contracting and Using Other Labour Providers

Labour providers must continue to comply with the licensing standards to keep their licence. If you are concerned that a labour provider is failing to meet the standards or is operating without a licence you should contact GLA.

Inspections

All new applicants may be inspected by a GLA officer to make sure they meet the licensing standards. Licence holders may also have a compliance inspection as part of a random check or following a risk assessment.

All decisions are evidence based, so you may be asked to give details of any current contracts with labour users. Their premises may also be inspected and the officer may interview several of the workers. You may need to provide documentary evidence to demonstrate you meet the standards, such as wage books or worker’s terms and conditions.

The GLA website has further guidance on the inspection process.

Appealing against a Gangmasters Licensing Authority decision

You have a right to appeal against any decision of the GLA:

  • to refuse an application for a licence
  • to attach conditions to a licence
  • to revoke a licence, or
  • to refuse the transfer of a licence

Any decision the GLA makes will explain the process for making an appeal. More information, including how to contact the Gangmasters Licensing Appeals Secretariat is available on the GLA website appeals page.

Exclusions

There are some circumstances under which labour providers do not need a licence. These exclusions apply to specific situations. Read the Exclusions page for more details on the work that does not require a licence. Exclusions include if workers are:

  • supplied for processing and packaging in food retail outlets, catering outlets, retail distribution centres, fresh produce, the meat or fish wholesale market, wholesaling establishments
  • supplied for processing and packaging in non-food industries, such as cosmetic and engine oils, using products from agricultural work - eg oils from fish and shellfish
  • loaned between farmers for agricultural activities, work on farms with share-farming agreements, or are providing a short-term agricultural service
  • supplied by a farmer to an agricultural contractor to operate machinery supplied by the contractor for use on the farmer’s premises
  • part of an agricultural machinery service supplied by an agricultural contractor
  • skilled workers
  • providing labour for a sub-contracted service that has been provided
  • supplied to Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) operators by another SAWS operator. SAWS allows students from outside the European Economic Area to enter the UK for seasonal agricultural work
  • supplied by an educational establishment - eg for work experience in agricultural setting
  • employed to harvest a crop for someone who has sold land but kept ownership of the crop
  • gathering shellfish from a fishing vessel

To benefit from an exclusion, you must fulfill the criteria set out in the Gangmaster Licensing (Exclusions) Regulations 2010. The examples listed set out those who may potentially be exempt and is not a definitive list. If you are still not sure whether you need a licence check the regulations and ask the GLA for advice on your particular circumstances. You can call the help desk on 0845 602 5020 or email licensing@gla.gsi.gov.uk.

Criminal offences

The Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 includes a number of criminal offences that apply to both labour providers and labour users.

It is illegal to:

  • Operate as a gangmaster without a licence
  • Use an unlicensed gangmaster

For labour providers, it is illegal to supply workers in the GLA regulated sectors without a licence. The maximum penalty for operating without a licence is ten years in prison and a fine.

Labour users must only use workers supplied by a licensed labour provider. In England and Wales the maximum penalty for using an unlicensed gangmaster is 51 weeks in prison and a fine. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it is six months in prison and a fine.

Shellfish gathering

If you use workers to gather shellfish you will also need a licence. You are considered to be a gangmaster in this sector, so the penalty is up to ten years in prison and a fine if you operate without a licence. More information is available on our shellfish gathering page.

Other offences

It is an offence to hold any documentation that suggests an unlicensed gangmaster has a licence. The Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 states it is an offence to hold:

  • a relevant document that is known or believed to be false
  • a relevant document obtained by deception and known or believed to have been so obtained
  • a relevant document that relates to someone else with the intention of causing a third party to believe that the person in possession of the documentation or another person is a licensed Gangmaster.

It is also an offence to obstruct a GLA officer in the course of their duties.

The GLA enforces these criminal offences on behalf of Defra in Great Britain and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Northern Ireland.

Inspections

We inspect businesses that are licensed and investigate those who operate without a licence. We will investigate any allegations of worker exploitation or unlicensed activity.

All new applicants are inspected by a GLA officer to make sure they meet the licensing standards. Licence holders may also have a compliance inspection as part of a random check or following a risk assessment.

All decisions are evidence based, so you may be asked to give details of any current contracts with labour users. Their premises may also be inspected and the officer may interview several of the workers. You may need to provide documentary evidence to demonstrate you meet the standards, such as wage books or worker’s terms and conditions.

For further information about how the licensing scheme is enforced, read the GLA Enforcement code of practice.

Labour users

Someone is considered to be using labour if they employ the worker under a contract of employment or engage him or her under a contract for services. The GLA also considers someone is using labour if they make arrangements with the worker that:

  • require the worker to follow his or her instructions
  • determine where, when or how the worker carries out the work, or
  • if using workers to gather shellfish, require the worker to sell their gathered shellfish to them as the first link in the buying chain.

The above applies whether the licence holder makes these arrangements directly with a worker or makes them indirectly through another person, for example a supervisor, intermediary or agent.

Reporting information

If you have any information about the mistreatment of workers, labour providers operating without a licence or a business using an unlicensed gangmaster, please tell us. Your information counts.

Call 0845 602 5020, ask for the Intelligence team. Lines are open Monday to Friday 9:00am - 5:00pm.

Email intelligence@gla.gsi.gov.uk, please give us as much information as you can.

Use the confidential reporting form which is available in 6 different languages. You can give information anonymously if you wish.

Write to GLA, PO Box 10272, Nottingham, NG2 9PB

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