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REC comment on EHRC inquiry

Following the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into the use of temporary agency workers in meat and poultry processing plants, the REC has made the following statement:

Anne Fairweather, Head of Public Policy, said: "The report shows that it is perfectly possible to use the flexible resource of agency labour without resorting to exploitative practices. Research has regularly shown that the vast majority of temporary staff working across all sectors are well looked after and value the experience and opportunity that temp work provides.

"The REC provides a lot of support and advice to its members to ensure that they engage workers correctly. It is also important for the hirer to work with the agency to ensure that workers are well managed. The REC encourages members and hirers alike to follow all legal requirements when engaging agency workers."

Responding to the recommendations in the report, the REC believes:
Where the law is flouted these practices should be clamped down on by enforcement agencies. The Gangmaster Licensing Authority has considerable powers and they should strengthen their efforts to use intelligence to root out the worst abuses.

The REC fully supports the work of the Department for Business in their promotion of the Pay and Work Rights Helpline, which is receiving increasing recognition by vulnerable workers as the place to go for advice and enforcement action against those employers and agencies who break the rules.

Some of the issues raised, such as equal pay and more protection for pregnant workers, are addressed by the Agency Workers Regulations 2010.

On the suggestion that temporary workers should all be made employees, this proposal should be treated with care. Agency work is a vital route back to work for many unemployed people. Hirers are willing to take on agency workers, when they would not necessarily be in a position to employ staff due to economic uncertainty as we rebuild after this recession. Agency workers currently enjoy most employment rights, such as holiday pay and protection from discrimination. The move towards full employment rights could limit job creation through the hiring of temporary staff.
Anne Fairweather concluded, "Whilst we recognise the concerns of the EHRC, their own research has shown that with good management, and good commercial relationships, agency workers can be very well treated. The REC will work with the EHRC and other stakeholders to encourage best practice and to ensure that employers only use legitimate labour providers who abide to regulations and Industry Codes of Practice. The REC also calls on the Government enforcement agencies to redouble their efforts to stamp out discriminatory and illegal working environments."

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