UK News

Employment: Consultation equal treatment of agency workers

July 2009

Last May the UK government reached an accord with the employees and employers bodies (the TUC and CBI) which broke a 9 year deadlock on the proposed EU Agency Workers Directive.

Agency staff to have the same pay and conditions as “end user” employees

The Directive proposes new rights for workers who are supplied to work in an “end user” organisation under contract with an employment agency.  The central proposal is that once an agency worker has been working in the same end user organisation for 12 weeks they should be entitled to the same basic pay and conditions as they would enjoy if they had been hired directly by the end user.  “Occupational social security schemes” such as pensions and company sick pay are excluded however for the many businesses that use agency staff for periods longer than 3 months of a time, for example to provide maternity leave cover, there could be a significant increase in costs.

Matters for consultation

Matters that the government is consulting on include:

  • what should be included in the definition of “pay” for the purposes of establishing equal treatment.  The government proposes that this includes holiday, overtime, shift allowances, unsocial hours premiums and some work-related bonuses.
  • how the right comparator is established for the purposes of establishing equal treatment.  Employment agencies and end user organisation are both understandably worried that there will be a massive increase in the administrative costs of placing people on temporary assignments.
  • how the 12 week qualifying period will be calculated and what break in usage of an agency temp is sufficient to “re-start the clock”.  The government wants to ensure that avoidance by use of artificial breaks is not possible, while industry wants to ensure that where individuals are placed on a series of short and genuinely unconnected assignments in the same end user, this does not give rise to increased costs under the equal treatment provisions.

Timing for legislation – hopes for a delay beyond early 2010

After the initial consultation there will be a further consultation on draft regulations before the new obligations finally come into force.  At present the government position is that this will happen in early 2010 but there is strong lobbying to delay implementation until the end of 2011, the official deadline for implementation of the EU Directive.

The current consultation document can be found by following the link below.  Consultation closes on 31 July.

Further reading

View consultation here

For further information please contact us.


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