Lobbyists have hit back at a report by the TUC-backed Commission on Vulnerable Employment, saying employers shouldn’t be punished by tougher laws just because of actions by “rogue organisations”.
The Hard Work, Hidden Lives report published last week said immediate action should be taken to protect almost two million vulnerable workers in the UK, many employed in temporary positions. It called for greater awareness of vulnerable workers, better enforcement of their rights, and tougher legislation.
Suggested new laws included a national set of standards for employment agencies, an extension of the gangmanster licensing regime that exists in the agricultural sector, and equal rights for temps and permanent staff.
But several representative bodies disagree with the need for more laws, asking instead for patience.
Tom Hadley, director at agency body the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said: “The reality is that regulations covering agency work are already in place, and temporary workers are already covered by most employment rights.”
“What we should be talking about on the back of this report is education, not regulation.”
Hadley’s thoughts were echoed by CBI deputy director-general, John Cridland.
“More licensing will do nothing to tackle abuse in the few firms where it takes place,” he said. “Extending the licensing regime to sectors beyond agriculture would impose extra costs and bureaucracy on good employers.”
Minister abstains in crucial vote
Employment relations minister Pat McFadden’s decision not to vote on whether the agency workers’ Bill should be scrapped has been branded an “embarrassment” by employers.
The controversial Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill, which would allow agency workers the same rights as permanent staff, entered the committee stage last Wednesday. Within hours, MPs had to vote on whether it should continue to progress through the House of Commons.
McFadden spoke out against the Bill during the committee hearing, saying: “It is not the best vehicle for achieving its supporters’ aims.”
However, when it came to the vote, the minister and his parliamentary private secretary Jim McGovern abstained, allowing it to remain in Parliament by a majority of just one vote.
David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at manufacturers’ body EEF, said: “I suspect the minister did not, at this particular delicate political moment, want to be upsetting back-bench Labour MPs even more.
“He may not have realised how tight the vote would be – that’s where the embarrassment is.”
The Bill will now continue through committee stage where MPs will add amendments.