The 2nd Consultation on the Agency Workers Directive brings some key issues sharply into focus, says the Association of Recruitment Consultancies.
Whilst the overall objective of the Directive itself is to promote flexibility within the workforce, and the Directive recognises the difference between employment and agency work, the translation of the Directive into UK Regulations as currently suggested seems to counter that objective.
ARC has highlighted many examples in its response to Government. Adrian Marlowe, Chair of ARC explained “The principle that agency workers are to receive in terms of pay and working time arrangements many of the benefits that employees only achieve because of the long term nature of employment goes against common sense. If this is not recognised as it should be, where an employee earns less than an agency worker, how long will it be before employees demand the same rates?
The problem largely is the test that the Government has set up, and we are urging a change. The Directive specifically does not provide that an agency worker is entitled to the same benefits as someone in permanent employment, but the same benefits as if recruited directly. There is a key difference, which recognises that hirers have flexibility as to how they engage workers in many instances.
Also, the rules for payment to pregnant mothers if they are laid off for health and safety reasons, are hugely unfair on agencies. We have calculated that an agency would have to have achieved the full margin charge on supply for 130 weeks in order to just meet the cost of paying such a worker for a 6 month assignment when laid off, let alone meet other costs. The result will undoubtedly be to encourage discrimination and adversely affect females of child bearing age. There must be a better way to achieve the protection that the Directive requires and we have written to the Government on this.
On transfer fees most people seem to have overlooked the fact that the plan to make the fees “reasonable” does not just affect temp to perm fees. It also covers temp to temp fees, making it far easier for hirers to switch agency workers from one agency to another, and extends to ensuring that any extended hire period is subject to the reasonableness test. Neither of these aspects are addressed by the Directive. The suggested changes are hugely prejudicial to agencies for all sorts of reasons and could result in a frenzy of temp to temp transfers. We are fighting hard to retain the existing framework.”
Adrian continued “ARC recognises the efforts the Government is making in respect of the many complex and difficult issues the Directive covers, and welcomes the Government’s positive response to our campaign in the Summer against gold plating the Directive. However much work remains to be done to achieve a fairer balance. ARC is continuing to work with Government to help resolve the many issues. We very much urge the Government to take more time to get this right.”
ARC’s response to the 2nd consultation was prepared for ARC by Lawspeed. For a copy of the full response see www.arc-org.net.