Loopholes in employment law that leave agency staff open to exploitation must be closed to stop employers using them as a source of cheap vulnerable labour, a TUC report has concluded.
The report, Agency Workers – Counting the Cost of Flexibility, has been published as MPs prepare to debate a Private Member’s Bill on Friday (2 March) that would give agency staff rights to equal treatment with staff employed directly by employers.
The report finds that:
- almost half of agency staff would rather have a permanent job
- one-quarter of agency staff are in assignments of more than a year (and not just filling a temporary need)
- yet agency staff in post for more than a year do not gain the enhanced employment rights other workers would enjoy after 12 months in a job
- agency workers can be made unemployed at any time
- agency staff are paid 80p for every pound paid to permanent staff doing a similar level of job, according to a TUC analysis of official statistics
- the government’s proposals on agency workers fail to deal with the main problems they face.
The report contains examples of agencies breaking employment law, particularly when placing vulnerable workers such as migrants.
These include forcing workers to live in over-crowded, substandard accommodation, making illegal deductions from the minimum wage, and charging for required health and safety equipment.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “There will always be a need for agency staff, and there are undoubtedly some people who are happy to work this way. But the picture revealed by this report shows that agency staff are not all happy temps flitting from job to job.
“Poor job rights for agency staff allow unscrupulous employers to exploit agency workers, who are paid less, given fewer holidays and lose out on sick pay and pensions. New rights won’t end agency working, they will simply mean that agencies do what they are meant to do, help employers overcome temporary staffing problems.”
The TUC is urging MPs to back the Bill and is calling on the government to support its passage through Parliament.