HR v FD – the AWR divide

Commenting on the prospect of final guidance being issued soon on the Agency Workers Regulations, Ravi Murphy, director of the recruitment law specialist Lawspeed, said  “the way in which the new laws are explained in the guidance will be of key importance for agencies and hirers alike and may reduce friction within hirer organisations”.

She explained “Unlike other agency related rules, these new regulations contain difficult and somewhat emotive issues that could lead to early conflict. They could open up a divide between what HR management feel they ought to do, given the perceived intention of the regulations, and what a hirer’s finance director may want to achieve.

For example, HR staff may find it difficult to argue with the unions or employees representatives over changing pay rates and may fear a backlash if their employers take a robust approach to methods that enable the continued use of agency workers at the same rates as before. In contrast finance directors will surely want to follow every possible avenue open to them to keep costs down and flexibility up.

Of course there is a balance to be had. However, since it is obvious that increased costs will work against agency supply in the long run, and thus have a negative impact on the concept of flexibility of resource, it is crucial that hirers understand what the law really says. Their side of the argument should not in any sense be undermined, particularly in these difficult economic times.

Thus the guidance should not seek to play down options that are available, but rather emphasise them. If the law allows for a particular route, for example permitting a hirer to set new rates for new start workers in a particular job, the guidance should explain that. This would give HR managers a powerful tool to use in discussion with those demanding that pay should only ever increase. There can be no criticism in that since it is the law that determines the position, and supportive guidance in this area should help diminish the potential HR v FD divide.”