UK Home Office and Gangmaster Licensing Authority joint statement

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As from 6 April 2006 organisations or individuals who supply or sub-contract labour to the agriculture, horticulture, food processing and packaging sectors (labour providers) are required to apply for a licence from the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA).

From October 2006 it will be a criminal offence to operate in these sectors without a GLA licence and from December 2006 it will be an offence to use an unlicenced labour provider.


This statement provides guidelines on the responsibilities of Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) Operators under the Gangmaster Licensing Act.

It outlines the circumstances for which a GLA licence is required and also provides guidance on the types of charges a worker is typically required to pay by the Operator or overseas agent in terms of their acceptability for the grant of a licence.

There are specific circumstances where a labour provider may not be required to apply for a licence. Therefore, SAWS Operators using and supplying labour, will need to decide as to whether their circumstances are such that they need to apply for a GLA licence.

Furthermore, should SAWS Operators use overseas agents they should also be aware that, depending on their circumstances, they may also need to licenced under the terms of the GLA.

The guidelines below are intended to be a general guide in helping you decide whether you need to apply for a licence. They largely relate to the provision and use of SAWS students but you need to be aware that the provision and use of non-SAWS labour (resident or EU labor for example) may affect your requirement to be licensed.

SAWS Operators

Multiple Operators will need to apply for a licence since they are in the direct business of supplying SAWS students to employers.

Sole Operators may not need to apply since they are generally using labour for their own purposes.

Overseas Agents / Labour Suppliers

It is difficult to give definitive guidance, since the requirement to hold a licence will depend on the individual circumstances of the agent on a case by case basis. Advice should always be sought from the GLA.

As a general rule, the following will apply:

The Home Office guidance document "Use of Third Parties/ Agents by SAWS Operators" outlines the extent within which overseas agents are permitted under the SAWS to source SAWS students on behalf of Operators/ Employers.

Overseas agents undertaking their activities in line with this guidance would not require a licence. However, overseas agents undertaking activities beyond the guidelines of this document, which could include the supply of non-SAWS labour, may be required to hold a licence in their own right.

Worker Charges

There are charges that may be imposed on a worker by an overseas agent or UK Operator that would be acceptable to the GLA for the purposes of granting a licence.

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) was set up to curb the exploitation of workers in the agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and associated processing and packaging industries.

From 1 October 2006 it will be illegal for a business to provide labour to the regulated sectors if they do not have a gangmasters licence.

Labour providers will need to apply for a licence by 1 September to ensure their application is processed before the offences commence on 1 October.

[ Last edited 03 August, 2006 for corrections and to add links ]