Consultation on Agency Workers Directive published

The government has finally published (8th May 2009) its long awaited consultation on new rights for agency workers, following the Agency Worker’s Directive enacted in Europe in December 2008. Click here to view the consultation document and see subsequent articles in left hand column. The proposal is that agency workers should have “at least” the same pay, working and employment conditions as employees on the end user site. There is a legal requirement for the government to bring in legislation on this basis by no later than December 2011, but the government has vowed to introduce the UK legislation within the current Parliamentary Session, namely by the end of this year. The proposed new laws have the potential of being the single most damaging piece of legislation since the recruitment industry began, and the concept has been controversial from the outset. This now takes the number of current government consultations affecting…

Employment rights for contractors

Clients are becoming increasingly concerned about possible claims for employment rights from limited company contractors and temporary workers supplied through agencies. Evidence of this may be seen in agreements issued by clients that require the agency to provide indemnities against such claims. These indemnities are designed to cover all awards and costs incurred in the event that a contractor seeks compensation from the client for breach of alleged employment rights. The logic in this trend seems apparent but it does come at a time when those same clients want flexibility in their work force and when some clients are insisting upon margin reductions and rate cuts. Agencies should carefully consider the risks involved in agreeing to accept liability for employment rights. These risks are unlikely to be covered by any existing professional indemnity insurance policy. As an example, unfair dismissal can occur when a fixed term contract is not renewed.…

Lawspeed launches membership organisation

New membership body for the recruitment industry – ARC – vows to take proactive stance Visit: www.arc-org.net. As the economic downturn takes hold, and with a number of legislative measures and government proposals on the table that threaten to have a significant impact, now is the time when the recruitment sector needs strong industry representation the most. “That’s why”, says Adrian Marlowe, managing director of Lawspeed, a UK-based commercial and legal consultancy specialising in the recruitment business, “it is the right moment to launch the Association of Recruitment Consultancies” (ARC). Marlowe points to the impending legislation relating to the implementation of the Agency Workers Directive (AWD). “This is a key example why taking a more challenging approach to industry representation is necessary”. “The AWD is EU legislation that requires agencies to ensure agency workers receive the same basic employment conditions and pay as a person recruited directly at the end…

Government announces consultation

The Government has launched a consultation on the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 which could have a significant impact on the day-to-day business of recruitment companies. Whilst the document addresses some positive aspects, the principal area affecting supply recruiters is a proposal to remove the limited company opt out under regulation 32. The opt out has been widely used by many contractors including those operating through umbrella companies. It allows a significant benefit to supply recruiters wishing to avoid administrative procedures and to protect transfer fees since the fact of an opt out removes the need to comply with the Regulations. Although the proposals in the consultation are “dressed up” as trying to solve the problem of low skilled workers being pushed through umbrella companies, the practical effect of one of the proposals would be to remove the limited company opt out altogether. The consultation closes…

3 umbrella problems damage umbrella reputation

Following the recent news that JSA Services Limited, part of the JSA Group, owes £10.6 million to HMRC and has entered into a voluntary arrangement and that two other “umbrella service providers” have left contractors unpaid, agencies should take care to ensure they are protected against umbrella failures, says the recruitment law specialist Lawspeed. Adrian Marlowe, MD of Lawspeed and Chair of the recruiter trade body, the Association of Recruitment Consultancies, said “whilst agencies have quite rightly been focused on making sure they are not exposed to debt transfer arising under the Managed Services Legislation, it is just as, if not more, important for agencies to make sure that have a fall back position if the umbrella they are dealing with fails to pay the worker. Claims of compliance by an umbrella should not lull the agency into a sense of security – as recent events have shown that sense…

European Parliament votes to get rid of opt-out

The saga continues of the so called “deal”, under which the UK’s position opposing the Agency Workers Directive (AWD) was withdrawn in exchange for agreement  for the UK to retain the 48 hour opt out under the Working Time Directive (WTD.) On 17th December the EU Parliament made a determined attempt to remove the opt out by voting for its removal – in direct conflict with the alleged agreement. This could represent another nail in the coffin of the “deal” although it is important to emphasise that the position is not yet finalised and the Directive will now have to go to a conciliation procedure to decide its future.  Let’s recap. The parties to the “deal” which was announced on 20th May 2008 we are told were the CBI, for employers, and the TUC, for workers. The deal authorised the UK to change its opposition to the AWD, a position…

Pre budget report allows employment umbrellas off

The pre budget report contained the welcome news that the government has decided not to change the tax reliefs on travel expenses, but that is not the end of the matter. Adrian Marlowe, managing director of Lawspeed, said “this news will come as a huge relief not only to umbrella companies, but also to the large number of contractors for whom tax relief is a significant factor in accepting site based work. However this will not be the end of the matter as I am informed that the government will now set up a task force with greater emphasis on compliance and dispensations”. Adrian went on to say “we are very grateful for the tremendous support that was provided for the representation. It goes to show the value in providing a cohesive and coordinated strategy, and I hope that this continues. However, it is entirely possible that economic factors played…

Government announces yet more measures – this time

The Government has today issued a new consultation – entitled “Tax relief for travel expenses: temporary workers and overarching employment contracts”. This marks the beginning of another phase in the government’s review of the agency sector. Clearly the principle, that agency workers are able, by operating through an umbrella company or agency, in either case using an overarching employment contract, to claim tax relief against travel expenses, is one that the Government would like to end. The principle is said to have been abused by both agencies and umbrellas with the consequence that the Exchequer has lost money. In addition it is argued that eligibility for tax relief for travel to and from work, which regular employees cannot set off against tax, gives agency workers an unfair advantage. However the Government indicates a need to balance a curtailment of the relief against the possibility that its removal could damage flexibility…

Agency Workers Directive – sleepwalk to disaster?

The Agency Workers Directive (AWD) has long been simmering in the background, with many believing it would never become law, especially since the Government was originally against the proposals. However, following another policy U-turn, the Government announced on the 20th May that a deal had been made with the TUC and the CBI that would give agency workers the right to equal treatment. The details of how the deal was reached were, to say the least, a little sketchy. On the 9th June the EU Council discussed the AWD proposal, with the UK now supporting the Directive. Notably on the same day the UK secured the retention of the opt-out from the 48 hour working week under the Working Time Directive, which had been under threat. This appears to be another deal behind closed doors. The BERR website states “The Government hopes that EU agreement will be obtained in time…

EU Council reaches agreement on principles of Agency Workers Directive

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 qualifying period. 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…