New conditions proposed for temporary and agency workers
The government has reached an agreement with the main unions, the TUC and the CBI, which will guarantee to temporary workers some of the rights enjoyed by permanent employees. The agreement was prompted by the tabling of a private member’s bill, the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill, for consideration in parliament, following mounting concern about the EU’s draft Directive on the subject, which has been at the drafting stage since 2002.
The agreement announced on 20th May makes provision that, after 12 weeks in a job, agency workers are entitled to “equal treatment”. This in practice means basic working and employment conditions such as holiday pay, but stops short of occupational social security schemes such as pensions. The government also agreed to consult further about implementing other aspects of the draft Directive in the areas of dispute resolution and anti-avoidance measures.
One matter still not addressed however are cases where the worker has been in place for more than a year. A permanent employee would currently acquire certain rights in respect of unfair dismissal which have not been translated to temporary and agency workers. The complication with doing so is that there is doubt as to whether the worker’s actual workplace or the agency which placed them there would be culpable.
These new conditions, however, will only become law if and when the EU directive ever comes into force.