The government has created a new enforcement body in an attempt to protect workers from unscrupulous employers.

The “one-stop shop” watchdog will replace three separate bodies to tackle modern slavery, uphold the minimum wage and protect agency workers.

It is also meant to be a recognisable “port of call” for whistleblowers.

“The vast majority of businesses want to do right by their staff, but there are a minority who seem to think the law doesn’t apply to them,” business minister Paul Scully said.

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“Exploitative practices like modern slavery have no place in society.

“This new workers’ watchdog will help us crack down on any abuses of workers’ rights and take action against companies that turn a blind eye to abuses in their supply chains.”

However, retail trade union Usdaw criticised the government for its “missed opportunity”.

“As the country tries to recover from the pandemic, we don’t just need rigorous enforcement of the minimum wage, we need a new deal for workers”, general secretary Paddy Lillis said.

He added he was “deeply disappointed” that the government was refusing to make shop worker abuse a statutory offence.

Last year, an Usdaw survey showed that 85 per cent of shop staff had been threatened, 57 per cent were verbally abused, and 9 per cent were physically assaulted.

The Association of Convenience Stores struck a more positive note, with chief executive James Lowman saying the regulator would “bring some much-needed clarity” to employment law.

“It is important that the government works in partnership with businesses, including convenience retailers, providing clear guidance, support and intelligence-led enforcement activity,” he added.

However, responding to a government consultation in 2019, the lobbying group warned that “catch-all” inspections by the watchdog could be “disruptive for employers”.

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