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Overwhelming vote in favour of rights for agency workers

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MPs have backed new proposals to give agency workers the same rights as permanent staff despite opposition from the government.

In the House of Commons on Friday 22 February, politicians voted 147 to 11 in favour of the Private Member’s Bill. A total of 136 Labour MPs supported the Bill’s second reading including former work and pensions secretary Peter Hain.

The result is likely to cause a headache for Downing Street, which does not support the proposals. Gordon Brown has instead suggested an inquiry into the issue.

But Labour MP Andrew Miller, who put forward the Bill, called its introduction “morally right”. He added: “How can it be right for people to work alongside each other with the same skills doing precisely the same task and yet one category of employee is worth less than another?”

Business groups claim the changes would actually damage the economy and put jobs at risk. Confederation of British Industry (CBI) deputy director-general John Cridland said supporters of the changes are wrong to assume that all agency workers are vulnerable so need greater protection.

“Temps already have extensive rights covering minimum wage, working time, paid holiday, and health and safety,” he said. “Enforcement of those existing rules, rather than the creation of new ones, is the best way to protect a small minority of exploited workers

“Forcing businesses that use temps to pay a standardised rate from day one will be an administrative nightmare that confuses many temps and simply deters businesses from using agency workers.”

Cridland added that smaller firms looking for holiday and maternity cover would be particularly hard hit with many choosing to turn to their existing staff to work overtime.


Have you got a view on this issue? If so, vote in our online poll which asks if you think agency workers should be given the same rights as permanent staff.

One Response

  1. Do Temps want any changes??
    There is an underlying assumption within this legislation that most or all temporary workers want to be employed on a permanent basis.

    I am aware of a number of individual categories where a permanent position may not be what they want – has there been any research within the temporary worker community to find out?. Some individuals want to enjoy the flexibility which temporary employment offers enabling them to manage work around their personal lifestyle in a way which permanent employment does not afford.

    To be paid fairly for the work being done can and should be enforced through existing legislation – surely we do not need any more legislation to enforce employers into using less temporary workers and expect longer hours from existing staff.

    When the majority of the UK employment is in the SME sector I find it amazing that the government yet again appears to be introducing legislation which will have a direct and negative effect on this group of employers!

    As noted in this article, this bill is designed to protect a ‘small minority’. While it is right that this group should recieve fair treatment, why is it we seem to find that the legislation is not designed to support the majority of employers who genuinely treat their temporary workers or employees fairly?

    Time and again legislation is put into place to protect small minorities without (it seems)taking into account the large majority and the knock on effect it will have all parties involved?

    Surely we should be enforcing existing current legislation and make sure it is working well before moving on and introducing yet more draconian measures!

    Perhaps it is MPs worried that if they don’t do something visable we will wonder what they are being paid for? Or individual MPs trying to enhance their careers? (No I am not cynical!)

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