HR will have to tighten up on agency workers

It may not look like a big headache, but the way UK employers handle 1.8
million agency workers could emerge as one of the biggest challenges facing HR
for years.

Why? Because it impacts on most organisations at the crucial operational
level, and the burden of red tape and increased costs is looming large.

This week’s front-page story about the Reuters driver who won an unfair
dismissal and redundancy case at the Court of Appeal is a stark warning of the
risks that lie ahead. Combined with the forthcoming EU Agency Workers
Directive, it shows that HR will have to get a grip of what is currently a lax
process.

The landmark case was won on the basis that the lorry driver’s five years’
service was capable of creating an implied contract. What Reuters had said and
done with the driver during this period was called into question, along with
relevant documentation.

You must recognise the different status of temps and avoid treating them as
regular staff.

For many large-scale businesses, it is common to use different agencies to
recruit temporary staff and involve HR and/or line managers in their
procurement. Such inconsistencies can lead to many different practices in one
organisation – or even one small team.

Temps clearly need to be valued and protected, but our readers believe they
should not be over-regulated to the extent that their employment stifles
competitiveness.

Research conducted by Personnel Today and Manpower shows that employers have
an enlightened approach, with 45 per cent of responding firms claiming to pay
their agency staff the same as permanent workers, and 23 per cent paying temps
more. However, 70 per cent of the 1,000 respondents were fearful the new EU
Directive would lead to more red tape and bigger costs.

Managing temps is not just about juggling costs, it is also about policies
and procedures that clarify their employment status. Temps provide that all
important flexibility and will remain a vital resource, but one that is costing
your businesses around £1.7bn a year.

Surely anything costing that much deserves a lot more consideration than
many are affording it. Any employer using agency workers would be wise to
review their processes now.

By Jane King, editor

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