Trade unions have conceded that they might accept a qualifying period for temporary workers to gain full employment rights.
Attempts to finalise the wording of the Agency Workers Directive have been held up by five years of arguing over this issue between unions and employer groups.
Unions have held out for temps to gain the same rights as permanent workers from day one of employment. But businesses want them to have worked for up to a year at the same company before gaining equal rights.
The directive, placed back on the European agenda by the Portugese presidency of the European Union, will be the subject of much debate at the TUC congress next month.
Sarah Veale, TUC head of equality and employment rights, told Personnel Today: “It is possible there is somewhere between a day and a year that we can agree on – but we start from the premise that temporary workers should get full rights from day one.
“If it is anything other than day one, you start negotiating over a qualifying period, and that starts to cut out workers. If you end up with a year’s qualifying period, then you would only cover about three people.”
Veale added that a six-month qualifying period would still be “useless”, and that the TUC hoped a significant chunk of the year demanded by employers would be eaten into.
“We are optimistic,” she said. “We have had cordial meetings with the government.”
As part of the 2004 Warwick Agreement with unions, Labour pledged to introduce more rights for temporary workers.