Minister to battle EU over temporary staff

Employment
minister Alan Johnson has vowed to protect the flexibility of the UK labour
market by fighting for changes to the draft EU Agency Workers Directive at a
crucial meeting today.

As
drafted, the directive would mean employers would have to offer temporary
workers the same employment conditions as permanent staff from day one of
employment. They would also be entitled to the same salary after a six-week
qualification period.

Johnson
said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is not happy with this
situation and will be pushing for a significant increase in the qualification
period when the EU Council of Ministers meets later today.

The
minister, speaking at a conference on Friday, said that in its current form,
the directive would discourage employers from hiring temporary workers because
of the increased red tape involved in ensuring equal conditions and pay.

“The
process of hiring temps would become more complex and bureaucratic and could
leave some without work,” he said.

A DTI
source told Personnel Today it would be calling for a return to the original
position of a one-year qualification period, although anything above six weeks
would be an improvement.

The
minister’s stance was welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development (CIPD) and the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF), both of
which have called for the qualification period to be extended to one year.

Mike
Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “There is a real risk of
damaging the flexibility of the labour market if the qualification period is
not extended substantially.”

Meanwhile,
the EEF’s deputy director of employment policy, David Yeandle, said: “It is
very pleasing the minister has taken note of employers’ concerns on this
issue.”

Johnson
promised to look at the issue of agency worker rights again as part of the
DTI’s employment status review.

By
Ross Wigham

ross.wigham@rbi.co.uk

 

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