Only 19% of HR professionals have a clear understanding of the forthcoming Agency Worker Regulations, while a worrying four out of five have no idea what the consequences of non-compliance would be.
According to a survey of 100 HR decision-makers in UK companies who regularly use temporary staff, three out of five did not even realise that the Regulations came into force in only 12 months time. AWR is intended to give temps the same basic working and employment rights as permanent staff after they have worked on an assignment for 12 weeks.
The research undertaken by researchers Loudhouse on behalf of recruitment consultancy Adecco also revealed that a mere 15% of respondents felt ‘very well’ prepared to cope with the introduction of the legislation, while seven out of ten admitted to having only a basic level of understanding of it.
Steven Kirkpatrick, managing director of Adecco General Staffing, said: “Now is not the time for complacency. There are over 1.3 million agency workers out on assignment every day so it’s vital that HR professionals take steps to understand the nuances of AWR sooner rather than later. This is a significant piece of legislation and getting it wrong could have major resourcing, financial and legal implications.”
For example, failure to provide recruitment agencies with the right information about temps’ working and employment conditions could lead to costly employment tribunal cases that could, in turn, have major cost and reputational consequences, he added.
Although only three out of 10 respondents said they were concerned about the potential impact that AWR would have on their organisation, 48% admitted that they worried about understanding exceptions to the regulations, a key area in which they could become non-compliant.
Half said that they would not be seeking professional guidance on how to implement the rules, however, despite the fact that 52% of those businesses where temps make up more than 10% of the workforce said that they would not be able to survive without them.
The biggest perceived repercussion of AWR, meanwhile, was the need to spend more time on administration (44%), although the legislation was also expected to increase costs, up the requirement for legal advice and boost hiring levels of permanent staff.
Just under three out of ten of the HR professionals questioned expected to recruit fewer temps as a direct result of AWR, while just over two thirds believed it would lead businesses to deliberately employ workers for less than 12 weeks.
Kirkpatrick said: “The jobs market is at a crunch point. With over two million people still unemployed, it’s vital that businesses don’t discount temporary workers simply because they don’t fully understand how AWR will affect them. It’s also vital that HR professionals see the AWR as more than just an admin burden and instead recognise the risks of non-compliance.”
With only a year to go until implementation, now was the time to take action, he added.