Firms to face agency staff tribunal claims

Employers
have been warned they are vulnerable to unfair dismissal and redundancy claims
from temporary workers following a landmark Court of Appeal ruling.

In
Franks v Reuters, the Court of Appeal allowed an agency worker’s complaints of
unfair dismissal and redundancy against Reuters to be reheard by an employment
tribunal.

The
decision was made even though Franks was given the placement and paid by an
employment agency for the five years he worked at the global communications
business.

Jonathan
Chamberlain, a partner at law firm Wragge and Co, said the ruling should act as
a wake-up call for employers.

"The
ruling means agency workers can be regarded by the courts as employees and
employers have to be careful to stop this happening," he said.

Chamberlain
warned that the ruling demonstrates the tendency of the courts to examine the
nature of the employment relationship between temporary workers, their agencies
and employers to determine which is regarded as the employer in the eyes of the
law.

The
lead adviser on public policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development, Diana Sinclair agreed that employers should be careful about how
they manage their temporary workers.

"This
is a grey area of law and needs clarification," she said.

Martin
Hinchliffe, HR director at Welcome Break, said in light of the decision he
would monitor his firm’s use of agency staff.

Employment
experts agree that the ruling, together with the forthcoming agency workers
directive giving temporary workers the right to the same pay and conditions as
permanent staff, means agency staff will have much greater employment rights.

A
DTI spokesman said the Government is considering the rights of agency staff as
part of its review of employment status.

By Ben Willmott

What HR needs to know
Employers will be vulnerable to claims by agency staff if:


they wear the company uniform


they are integrated into the appraisal system


the employer relies on a particular agency worker


they clock in and out with permanent staff

Comments are closed.