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European Court of Justice rules on temporary workers

European Court of Justice rules on temporary workers

A European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling has provided useful clarification that EU legislation protecting fixed-term workers does not apply to temporary workers supplied by an employment agency to an end-user organisation.

The case (Della Rocca v Poste Italiane SpA, C-290/2012), which originally came before the Naples District Court, concerned a worker supplied on a series of fixed term contracts to the Italian postal service over a number of years.

He claimed that the EU Fixed-term Work Directive (No.99/70) applied to him and he was therefore in an open-ended employment relationship with the hirer.

The worker’s claim failed when the ECJ confirmed that the Fixed-term Work Directive should not be interpreted as applying to the fixed-term employment relationship between a temporary worker and an employment agency, nor to the employment relationship between such a worker and an end-user organisation.  The ECJ also made clear that the Directive does not regulate commercial contracts between temporary employment agencies and end users.

If the claim had been successful it would have had huge implications throughout the European Union and the UK, where the Directive also applies. The inevitable rise in litigation from temporary workers claiming to be employees of hirers and the uncertainty this would create could have had a major effect on the recruitment industry and possibly the economic recovery in member states.

Adrian Marlowe, MD at Lawspeed said: “This is just the sort of claim which should not be allowed to happen in the UK. Agency workers are covered by Agency Worker Regulations and so should not also claim employment rights, yet currently they can apply for both.”

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