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UK temps given same rights as permanent staff after 12 weeks

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The Temporary Agency Workers Directive has been approved by the European Parliament, which means that temporary workers in the UK will be treated the same as their permanent colleagues after 12 weeks with an employer.

The UK is the only state to secure this 12-week deal for its 1.3 million agency workers – all other EU states have to ensure equality for temps from day one. The revised wording of the directive allows the UK to implement an earlier agreement between the CBI and TUC.

Katja Hall, the CBI’s director of employment policy, said that whilst this directive will not be welcomed by employers, it is less damaging than previous proposals, as key flexibilities that underpin UK competitiveness have been protected.

“More than half of agency assignments last less than 12 weeks and will be unaffected,” said Hall. “And while pay is included, occupational benefits that recognise the long-term relationship permanent staff have with an employer, like sick pay and pensions, are rightly excluded.”

Green MEP Jean Lambert, who is a Member of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, welcomed the approval of the directive, yet regretted the decision for the UK to only ensure equal pay and condition after 12 weeks.

“However, this directive will still bring improvements, especially for those who have been temporarily employed for a long period,” she added. “This legislation is a positive landmark in the ‘flexicurity’ debate: if employers want flexible workers they will also have to offer greater security.”

Katy Meves, lawyer and employment specialist at Shoosmiths, said: “Companies must now be considering whether they carry on using agency workers, particularly as they look to cut costs in the current economic climate.

“And it is in that same climate where temporary worker agencies could well struggle to absorb extra costs. It won’t be easy for them to pass them on to the businesses that are their end-user clients.”

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