Employers in the dark over Agency Workers Regulations

The vast majority of UK employers are unprepared for the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) that come into effect later this year, new research finds.

The report – “Shifting Sands” – from recruitment company Randstad, shows that only 7% of employers have conducted an impact assessment while 37% are completely unfamiliar with the regulations.

Simon Horsfield, partner at Pinsent Masons, outlines the anti-avoidance measures in the Agency Workers Regulations Guidance.

The AWR are based around equalisation of pay and rights between agency workers and permanent workers and will come into force on 1 October 2011. Their objective is to ensure that agency workers receive the right to the same basic working and employment conditions as those in the equivalent permanent job recruited directly by their host organisation.

Some rights will apply from day one, such as the same access to facilities and job vacancies. Other rights, such as pay and some benefits, will apply after the agency worker has been in the same job for 12 weeks.

Agency workers make up about 4% of the UK workforce, the highest proportion in Europe, and Randstad estimates that at least half of them will be affected by the AWR.

The research, which surveyed a total of 862 candidates and clients, also claims that the impact of the AWR will vary across industries, according to their use of temporary workers, with sectors such as construction, education and healthcare likely to face some of the greatest challenges.

Brian Wilkinson, head of Randstad UK, said: “It is a concern that such a high proportion of organisations are so unprepared. We urge all users of agency workers to conduct a thorough assessment of their human capital resources and the impact of the Regulations. Doing this properly will enable organisations to optimise the structure and efficiency of their workforces.”

Wilkinson adds: “The equalisation of basic working and employment conditions for agency workers will encourage more people that don’t want permanent work to enter the labour market. That is good for them and it’s good for UK employers.”

In the spring, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills is due to publish guidelines on interpreting the Regulations.

For more background on the Agency Workers Regulations, see XpertHR’s guide.

XpertHR has further information available on the implications of Agency Workers Regulations.

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