Acas has been labelled “sneaky” and “unfair” after it emerged it hired temps and ended their contracts one week before they gained the right to claim for unfair dismissal.
Bosses at the conciliation service hired temporary staff to work on an IT project for a 51 week period, but then ditched them and replaced them with another set of temps to continue work on the project.
A spokesman for Acas defended the move: “Like all public sector bodies we have to look at funding and must be circumspect that we don’t put the taxpayer to unnecessary expense.”
But the union PCS – which represents staff – said that the tactic would end up costing the taxpayer more money through recruitment and hiring costs.
Dave Cliff, PCS national officer for Acas, said: “The irony of this policy is breathtaking. Acas should be leading by example, not pursuing policies aimed at denying people their full employment rights.
“Not only is this policy unfair but it offers poor value to the taxpayers who have to stump up additional costs in recruiting and training replacements.”
Although Acas is not breaking employment law, the move by an organisation that should be encouraging strong employee relations could send out the wrong message to firms, according to Helen Burgess, associate at law firm Shoosmiths.
“In terms of unfair dismissal these workers do not have the qualifying service to bring a claim, which is sneaky from Acas,” she said.
“In terms of employee relations this is not a good thing, you can understand it commercially but it might not be the best way to go about it, because other employers will now see Acas treat staff as expendable items.”