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Consultation on protecting agency workers

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The government has launched a consultation on its plans to protect vulnerable agency workers and clamp down on rogue companies.

Measures set out in the consultation document include:


  • Giving workers a clear right to withdraw from accommodation, transport or other services provided by an agency without suffering any detriment

  • Plans to alert potential migrant workers to their rights and highlight unscrupulous practices they may fall victim to before they come to the UK

  • Making clear in guidance that driving agencies who flout the law and knowingly allow drivers to work beyond their hours can face criminal prosecution

  • Banning the taking of fees on the day where talent agencies hold open call castings and possibly for up to a week afterwards

  • Defining in law what can be included as a reasonable cost when a talent agency seeks a fee for including an individual’s details in a publication in addition to providing work-finding services.

In addition, there are plans to reduce the amount of paperwork agencies are required to complete.

The proposals under consultation suggest that when workers are placed on assignments lasting less than five days, the agency will not have to provide written information providing details such as qualifications required and rate of pay are included in the agency’s terms and conditions. The government estimates this will save agencies between £6.6 – £15.4 million per year.

Employment relations minister Jim Fitzpatrick said: “Many agency workers choose temporary positions as it fits their lifestyle and allows them to choose their working pattern. The government’s focus in this consultation is on those agency workers who are vulnerable, to make sure they know their rights.”

But the TUC argues the remit of the consultation is not broad enough. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Unfortunately the consultation is extremely limited in its scope and will do nothing to address the worse pay and conditions that temps receive.

“Unions have long campaigned for agency workers to be given the same rights at work as their permanent colleagues. Without better protection at work, many agency workers will continue to receive unfair treatment.

“The Government has said previously that it supported the principles contained in the now shelved European temporary agency workers directive. Ministers should now prove this commitment by introducing equal treatment for agency workers by supporting Paul Farrelly’s Private Members’ Bill.”

As HR Zone has previously reported, Mr Farrelly’s bill is due to be read on Friday, March 2. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) is conducting a lobbying campaign accusing the unions of misrepresenting agency work.

The REC’s CEO Marcia Roberts welcomed the government consultation, saying: “Raising standards is at the heart of the REC’s mission and we are fully behind the DTI’s measures to support more vulnerable workers. The REC recognises the need to ensure that recruitment agencies are acting correctly and, to this end, has recruited a team of four enforcement officers who will check that REC members are abiding by our code.

“Where vulnerable workers are exploited there is a need focus on the enforcement of the current Employment Agency Act regulations rather than inventing new laws. There is no real need to introduce further detailed regulation of the industry – as the trade unions are currently trying to do through their Private Members’ Bill on temporary agency workers.”

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