Confusion looms – Agency Workers Regulations

Posted on 30 Sep 2011 by The Manufacturer

Experts comment on changes to Agency Workers Regulation.

Miriam Bascombe, legal expert at Contact Law:

All the dire predictions about the cost of the new rules and recruitment agencies’ rumoured attempts to get around them, there is a danger that the people most directly impacted will be left scratching their heads – and seeking legal advice.

In terms of who will be affected by the new rules, the clue is in the title – the Agency Workers Directive. Around 1.4 million agency workers will be covered, but there are some notable exceptions.

If you are a temp employed directly by the company where you work, or if you’re employed through an employment agency but don’t have a contract, the new AWD will not apply to you.

In order to ensure that temporary workers, whether agency or not, understand both their status and their rights, agencies and employers must explain these changes to them, and make clear what they are entitled to under employment law.

The new AWD confers a duty on temporary worker agencies to ask hirers for up-to-date information on their pay and basic working conditions, so they can ensure that temporary workers on assignment are being treated equally.

Hirers should supply this information when requested to ensure they are complying with the AWD.

Neil Owen, Director of Robert Half’s London operations:

Despite continued regulatory change, organisations across the UK are increasingly reliant on agency workers to carry out business critical processes. Areas such as finance, operations management and IT have experienced a steady increase in hiring levels over the past 12 months for temporary and interim staff. Our research shows that in London alone, 44% of finance and accounting departments have hired between 1-15 temporary staff, with 49% of companies planning to use the same number over the next 12 months.

With the challenging business environment amidst continued global economic uncertainty, some hiring managers are taking advantage of the knowledge and skills that temporary staff can bring to a company’s bottom line. By continuing to capitalise on the readily available and highly trained temporary market, businesses can adjust more easily and quickly to workload variations, and bring in specialists with the required experiences to run particular programmes.

Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director:

At a time when we should be nurturing companies and helping them to grow and create jobs, these regulatory changes are simply counter-productive.

There couldn’t be a worse time to bring in this unwelcome Brussels Directive. A hard-won 12-week qualification period for each temp to be in a firm before the rules are applied should help control costs and minimise administrative burdens.

But the new rules will still act as a brake on jobs. The Government must take the first opportunity to remove unnecessary gold-plating or reform the directive.

The new rules on agency workers will cost employers an estimated £1.8bn a year, and affect over 1.6m workers.