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Employment agency director banned for seven years

By Simon Penfold | Sandwell | Business | Published: | Last Updated:

The boss of a Black Country employment agency has been banned as a director for seven years after being stripped of his gangmasters licence.

Sukhjit Sohal Singh was deemed 'not fit or proper' to hold the licence.

Singh was a director of Phoenix Midlands in Smethwick, a temporary employment agency that went into creditors’ voluntary liquidation on November 13, 2015, owing £841,566 to creditors.

The Insolvency Service said that between 13 June, 2013, and at least February 5, 2015, Singh failed to ensure that Phoenix Midlands Limited complied with licensing standards set out by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).

In particular, he was deemed “not fit and proper” to hold a GLA licence, as he not been candid and truthful in all dealings with them.

In addition: "He had not demonstrated a readiness and willingness to comply with the requirements and standards of the regulatory system and with other legal, regulatory and professional requirements and standards. The GLA licence was therefore revoked."

Singh, aged 41, from Rowley Regis, has now signed a disqualification undertaking which bans him from acting as a company director or from managing, or in any way controlling, a limited company from September 5, 2017 until September 4, 2024.

Aldona O’Hara, chief investigator of Insolvent Investigations Midlands & West at the Insolvency Service, said: "When directors of a company do not comply with legislation that is designed to protect employees, and avoidable losses result, the Insolvency Service will fully investigate the circumstances and take action where appropriate.

"These disqualifications send a clear message that exploitation of vulnerable workers will not be tolerated."

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The GLA was set up in 2004 to protect workers after the tragic deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay. It licenses businesses which provide workers, often from overseas, to the farming, food processing and shellfish gathering sectors to make sure they meet the employment standards required by law. In particular it aims to protect vulnerable and exploited workers and is part of Government efforts to tackle modern slavery, organised crime and illegal working.

Phoenix Midlands was set up in June 2013 and was run from the Hawthorns Business Centre in Smethwick. Singh was the sole director of the firm, which started supplying temporary workers in December 2013.

The Insolvency Service said Singh had failed to ensure that Phoenix Midlands adhered to licensing standards under the Gang-Masters (Licensing Authority) regulations 2005.

Phoenix had been granted a gangmasters licence in October 2013 with two additional conditions. But the following February a compliance inspection was conducted by officers of the GLA. A report in March 2014 said Singh was not “fit and proper” to hold a GLA licence as Phoenix was in critical breach of several licensing standards.

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It said: "Singh had not been candid and truthful in all dealings with the GLA and he had not demonstrated a readiness and willingness to comply with the requirements and standards of the regulatory system and with other legal, regulatory and professional requirements and standards."

Also, he had been influenced by a third party who the GLA considered not to be 'fit and proper'. The officers said Singh did not have sufficient understanding of the GLA licensing standards and/or sufficient management processes.

They also found Phoenix Midlands was was not registered with HM Revenue and Customs in respect of income tax and National Insurance and these had not been calculated or deducted from workers' wages.

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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