ARC Leads Challenge
ARC Leads Challenge to Agency Worker Rights after Just 12 Weeks Plans to give all agency workers the same rights as permanent staff after just 12 weeks should be dropped, said the newly formed Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC). The Association is warning that forcing through such measures would undermine the UKs ability to keep ahead of its competitors and discourage employers from taking on new staff, vital to help keep the economy moving.
ARC is calling for a new two-tier system that would let vulnerable agency workers keep those rights after 12 weeks, but provide a much longer period for workers who dont fall into that category. The plan is aimed at protecting those workers that are more likely to be subject to exploitation, but recognises that many companies employ agency staff over longer periods to work on complex projects. Typically these staff earn higher salaries working in IT, financial management, legal work etc and do not need the protection of the 12-week period.
ARCs proposal has won support from a number of organisations including the Institute of Directors representing some 50,000 directors and the Federation of Small Businesses that represents 250,000 businesses.
Adrian Marlowe, chairman of ARC, said: The purpose of the Agency Workers Directive is quite rightly to provide proper protection to those agency workers that are seen as vulnerable. Unfortunately, the agreement does not distinguish between vulnerable and other workers, with the result that equal rights will apply to all after 12 weeks have passed.
If the country is to keep ahead of its competitors and encourage hirers to use temporary staff, we must protect the recruitment supply industry from unnecessary damage and help preserve flexibility in the economy.
A broad sweep of 12 weeks applying to all is insufficient to protect the staffing industry and will suppress agency work. Why not create a distinction that protects lower paid vulnerable agency workers so that they achieve the rights at 12 weeks, whilst providing for a much longer derogation period for those that are in a stronger position?
The two tier system benefits from real simplicity - it provides appropriate protection for those that need it at the lower end of the pay scale but, by taking out non-vulnerable workers, avoids the damage which is of genuine concern to many in the industry.
Adrian Marlowe went on to say:
The 12 weeks agreed by the CBI and TUC in May last year took the recruitment industry by surprise. The idea that it is a done deal and not open to review is simply not correct, and this should be part of the current discussions. ARC has gained widespread backing for our plan. We have written to the CBI and BERR to open urgent discussions, and we need action now, before the new legislation comes into force.
The European Directive permits the concept of a split derogation period, as long as adequate protection is provided for agency workers. ARCs proposal is for a longer derogation period of 12 months for all workers not deemed vulnerable. This fairer system would use a low multiplier of National Minimum Wage, e.g. 1.5 times. The result would be a split of 12 weeks for vulnerables and 12 months for non-vulnerables.
Mr Marlowe said:
Our idea did not exist before the CBI/TUC deal was reached and it therefore makes sense to consider it now before it is too late. Many elements of the government proposals are complex and could be riddled with unintended consequences. Any measure that helps protect the recruitment industry as a whole, along the lines we suggest, must be a good thing. This proposal maintains the underlying balance that the government is looking for. It ensures that the economy and recruitment industry is not damaged, at the same time as giving protection to workers who may be susceptible to exploitation, which is what the unions wanted. A win, win situation.