The UK model for joint cross-border inspections

A labour inspectorate in a destination country identifies that the exploitation of workers from a source country is being committed by individuals in both the destination and source countries.

In this case, an opportunity for a joint inspection arises:

  • where the source country is one that has a dedicated labour attaché in the destination country, they could be contacted to assist in liaison on the investigation and to facilitate contact with the labour inspectorate.
  • if there has been previous contact with the source country labour inspectorate, a single point of contact and an agreement on joint investigation and sharing of information may have previously been established, and should therefore be followed.

It is important to be clear on the objectives of the investigation to be carried out under labour law, the targets, and why support from the source country labour inspectorate is required. Such support will generally be necessary to:

  • identify whether the individuals/company in the source country are correctly registered/licensed in the source country
  • establish whether they are under investigation, or have been investigated, and if so, for what purpose and what the outcome was
  • propose any inspection of source country businesses, and identify when such inspections might occur to assist the investigation under labour law
  • identify whether the alleged conduct of the source country business constitutes any criminal offences in that country, and
  • advise what labour law breaches or criminal offences are being committed in the destination country, which may be facilitated by deceptive recruitment from the source country.

Briefing document

The above information should be provided in a briefing document to the source country organisation. It should set out:

  • the key issues to determine as part of the investigation
  • the proposed investigation approach
  • the timescales proposed for the investigation, including when any inspection in the source country may be sought
  • any risks to the organisation of any premature inspection in the source country, to avoid such activity adversely affecting the proposed investigation and the ability to secure evidence of offences.

Once a joint inspection and allocation of destination and source country inspectors is agreed, an operational plan should be developed. This should cover the locations to be visited, when, by whom, under what powers, and so on. It is important that it is clear to both parties what inspection powers each has and how they will be used. This will be different where source country inspectors attend inspections in the destination country, and vice versa, because they will be outside their jurisdiction and act as observers.

Where joint inspections identify offences under one or both jurisdictions, liaison should occur with police officers in both countries, Europol and Eurojust to determine whether there is a basis for a criminal investigation to be formally constituted as a Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

Legal advice should be taken before labour inspectors arrange any interviews outside of their own jurisdiction, for example of victims or suspects. This is needed to ensure that any evidence obtained by the interview, including on their behalf by the other labour inspectorate, is admissible as evidence.

‘Lessons learnt’ report

After the inspection, a report of the joint activity should be written as a ‘lessons learnt’ review. This review should identify best practice and any activities that would need to be dealt with differently on future joint operations.