Cambridgeshire gangmaster loses licence

A Peterborough recruitment agency has had its licence revoked by the GLA after inspectors discovered it was controlled by a disqualified director, paid its workers less than the National Minimum Wage and withheld holiday pay from workers.

The GLA informed INTERecruit (GB) Ltd, of Lincoln Road, that it had failed four of the authority’s critical licensing standards and should cease supplying workers to the sectors it regulates – farming, horticulture, food processing and packaging, shellfish gathering and forestry.

Under the GLA‟s penalty point process, the failure of a single critical standard incurs a score of 30 points resulting in a licence being revoked. INTERecruit also failed four critical and three non-critical standards and racked up a total score of 144 points.

Said GLA Chief Executive Paul Broadbent: “INTERecruit was a company looking to cut corners and improve its profits by taking advantage of lowly-paid and vulnerable people.

“Charging fees that take pay below the legal minimum wage, withholding holiday entitlements, not allowing sufficient days off and ignoring any complaints were all discovered to be happening within this business.

“The GLA has priorities to prevent worker exploitation and to tackle unlicensed activity and I’m satisfied we have done both of these things in the case of INTERecruit.”

The company’‟s licence was revoked on Friday (May 30) after it was found that its former but disqualified director Zahid Darr was still running the business. This failed the critical ‘fit and proper‟ person’ test.

Although the company told GLA inspectors that Mr Darr only attended meetings to take notes‟, staff said, when interviewed, that they considered him ‘to hold a position of authority’‟. During one phone call he told an inspector that he managed the company‟.

Further evidence came from the fact that Mr Darr’s ‘replacement’‟, Rizwan Ali, appeared to have very little knowledge of his obligations under the GLA Licensing

Standards when he was interviewed. This resulted in a second failure of the ‘fit and proper‟ test’ and another 30 points. INTERecruit‟s workers were given a daily advance of £6.50 per day to be used to pay a ‘voluntary‟ transport charge’. When questioned, however, it emerged that no money was advanced, the fees were compulsory and by paying them workers‟ earnings dipped below the National Minimum Wage. This practice failed a third critical standard resulting in another 30 points.

The final 30-point penalty was imposed after it was discovered that workers only received any holiday pay due to them if they specifically requested it. A large number of cheques made out to workers for unpaid holiday entitlements were found in the company offices.

Further investigations revealed that no efforts had been made to forward on the money due to employees. The company had also failed to pay them through electronic bank transfers though details were known.

Other non-critical standards failed by INTERecruit included allowing only 24 days annual leave instead of 28 and failed to implement its written grievance procedure.

INTERecruit has not lodged an appeal against the decision to revoke its licence and the deadline for doing so is now passed. The workers involved have been taken on by another GLA licence-holder.