A phone call in January of this year, following a Gangmasters Licensing Authority awareness initiative, alerted VineWorks to the possibility that they may not be compliant with little known legislation, which equally could apply to others within the viticulture industry.

Under the Gangmasters Licensing Act 2004, anyone who provides labour for services in Agriculture, Horticulture, Shellfish Gathering and Food Processing and Packaging must be in possession of a valid licence. It is also an offence to use labour supplied by a labour provider who is not in possession of a valid licence.

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority was formed in 2005 following the tragic deaths of 22 cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay. Its mission statement is to protect workers and ensure that those who provide workers within the sectors it regulates operate within the law and remain compliant against a set of GLA Standards.

VineWorks, set up in 2010 and based in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, provides services to various vineyards in the form of manual, semi-skilled labour. Following the telephone call, directors James Dodson and Darcy Gander decided that further enquiries were necessary.

“To be perfectly honest,” said James, “up until that call we had not heard much, if anything, about the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, and certainly did not think that it applied to our business.” VineWorks provides services to clients including pruning, harvesting and trellis work, etc, supplying up to a maximum of 20 workers at any one time.

The two directors, although initially apprehensive about their first approach, were pleasantly surprised at the response and service they subsequently received from the GLA. “On contacting the authority we were put in touch with the local inspector who is based on the south coast,” explained Darcy, “and, as it was not clear at that time if we did in fact need a licence, a further meeting was quickly arranged attended by the inspector and a GLA manager.”

Shortly afterwards the GLA confirmed that the business and work was within the regulated sector, and they were advised to apply for a GLA Licence. The process can be completed online or by phone and an application fee is £400. There is also a one off inspection fee for the same turnover band of £1850 making a total of £2250.

“The cost of applying could be seen as prohibitive,” said James, “and it would be better with small businesses if it was staged within that first year. However it is a necessary expense to our growing business and one that we can market to our clients. It is important to look after your workers, and ensure they receive what they are entitled to and by doing that you retain a committed and happy workforce.”

“The GLA was very helpful, and gave us plenty of advice and guidance throughout,” stated Darcy. “We now have our own local GLA contact and if we have any issues we give him a call.”

VineWorks now appears as “Licensed” on the GLA Public Register, a facility for anyone to check to see who has a valid licence. For those who choose to operate without one, the penalties are powerful for such a little known piece of law, with fines and custodial sentences of up to 10 years.


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