HR professionals have rejected union claims that temporary workers are being exploited by unscrupulous employers and need more protection.
The TUC Temp Trade report, published last week, claimed that the 600,000 temps working in the UK are being deprived of decent pay and basic employment rights.
The report urged the government to break the log-jam in the European Parliament which it said was delaying the Temporary Agency Workers Directive.
The directive would give UK temps the same pay as a permanent employee of the company doing the same job, along with measures to improve access to training and career development opportunities.
The progress of the directive is likely to be discussed as part of the UK’s presidency of the EU, which began last Friday.
But HR professionals said the directive was unnecessary and would be another example of EU interference hindering UK labour market flexibility.
Richard Walden, HR director at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said: “The UK has the highest number of agency workers in the EU by a long way. The directive would have an unfair and disproportionate impact on the UK.”
Nigel Godbolt, HR director at logistics firm Ryder, said that, if implemented, the agency workers directive would reduce the attractiveness of using temps as an alternative labour source.
“Protection from discrimination should be there, but pay equalisation may be going too far,” he said. “We have the working time directive and the minimum wage for umbrella protection.”
The TUC is pushing for equal rights from day one in a job, while the CBI wants 12 months to qualify. However, most HR professionals favour the middle ground and a six-month qualifying period.
The draft directive was first introduced in 2002, but the UK and other member states blocked its progress through the EU Council of Ministers.
The government said it was still seeking the best way forward and added that the directive “needed further work”.