On the 10th June, the EU Council agreed points of principle as to
the content of the proposed Agency Workers Directive. Fundamentally it
was agreed that the entitlement for agency workers to have comparable
rights to regular employees of the end user shall apply from day one of
an assignment in terms of pay, leave and maternity leave. However it was
also agreed that member states can derogate from this period, by
allowing a longer qualifying period and no upper limit was set for that
Additional points agreed include
(a) temporary agency workers to be informed about permanent employment opportunities in the user enterprise
(b) equal access to collective facilities (canteen, child care facilities, transport service)
(c) Member States have to improve temporary agency workers
access to training and child care facilities in periods BETWEEN their
assignments so to increase their employability
(d) Member States have to ensure penalties for non-compliance by temporary agencies and enterprises.
This means that on the face of it the UK government’s intention to
introduce legislation relating to agency worker rights, with a provision
that entitlement to the rights accrues once an assignment has run for
12 week, would be lawful under the proposed directive.
However, the directive still has several hoops to jump through
before becoming law, with formal adoption as the first step, and then
submission to the EU Parliament. However it is clear from the terms
discussed at the council meeting yesterday that it is the UK’s
initiative that has resulted in the directive being able to move
forwards. Several countries are opposed to the 12 week derogation period
and wish there to be a maximum period, in some cases lower than 12
weeks. The UK’s initiative relies upon the “deal” announced by
government in May between the unions, the CBI and other employer
organisations, including the REC.
There is little doubt that employer organisations were strong-armed
into this, since there is a sense that most employers and recruiters
would prefer there to be no extension of rights to agency workers for
fear of upsetting the flexible workforce. There is also a strong sense
that once again the UK is headed down the path of more legislation
affecting all when in fact it is only the vulnerable that require
The actual terms of the legislation, and therefore the extent of its application, are still not yet known.
Should agencies be concerned? Welcome, or a disaster?
Clearly there will be an impact across the board. Wait and see?
Won’t affect me? The position is not yet known, but many pundits see
this measure as a disaster waiting to happen. Assurances to the contrary, and any view that contractors are automatically to be excluded, cannot be relied upon at this stage.
By doing nothing now you increase the chance that key factors affecting
your business may be overlooked, and opportunities to affect the
outcome could be lost. The best thing to do is get the facts, consider
the problems and make your voice heard.