Agency Workers Regulations – what do hirers want?

Since the finalisation of the Agency Workers Regulations earlier this year there has been a flurry of activity to gear up for the new rules. However these regulations do not come into force until October 2011 and there is no legal reason why they cannot be modified, providing that they meet the requirements of the European Agency Workers Directive.

There was always the prospect of a review of the regulations as an election was due. The Liberal Democrats promised to cut red tape and have expressed a strong “anti gold plating of EU Directives” message; David Cameron personally sought revocation of the Regulations in an early day motion laid before Parliament, and his pre election shadow minister for BIS promised a review if the industry wants it.

The current Regulations gold plate the Directive in various different ways that potentially interfere with economic recovery, at a time when not everyone believes that a recovery is just around the corner. Indeed there are indicators that borrowing remains difficult, redundancies are still very much on the cards, whilst the housing market in most areas remains flat. Admittedly the latest figures from the CBI indicate skills shortages in certain areas which should be good news for the more proactive recruitment agencies that specialise in those particular areas. However, the Regulations are causing confusion and are at risk of putting off hirers from long term use of agency workers.

It is not in the interests of the recruitment and employment industry to simply accept that the AWR are a done deal. The political environment now is likely to be much more open to review and the industry should press for change immediately. There are 18 months for change to take place, and there is plenty of time to take stock and ascertain what is or is not possible. It follows that hope of guidance at this stage may be inappropriate. Hirers accordingly should be cautious about spending time and money in investing in plans that may never need to be realised. In short, there is a case for saying that it is far too early to be planning implementation.

What hirers want to know is the final shape of the Regulations so they can then plan ahead intelligently. The Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC), with which Lawspeed is working, is pressing the government for a firm agenda in terms of review and amendment in order to bring some certainty in key areas, and a fairer result, as soon as possible. However that exercise will no doubt take some time.

One thing I have learned over the years is that the work is not done until the bacon is brought in, and in the case of the Agency Workers Regulations the work definitely is not done. The time to crack the eggs is not yet upon us.

Adrian Marlowe