The Government is set for a confrontation with the European Union over draft
plans to give temporary workers the same rights as permanent staff.
The directive would mean employers and agencies having to ensure temporary
workers had the same rights as permanent workers doing comparable jobs, in
areas such as pay, pensions, paid holidays, and health insurance.
The UK has around one million temporary workers, who are covered by the
minimum wage and entitled to annual paid leave but little else.
Publication was due on 27 February but has been delayed.
A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry played down the
prospect of any conflict with Europe, but said it remained worried about the
scope of the directive.
"The majority of agency workers do not have full-time comparators.
There needs to be more flexibility there, and we think that some other
countries in Europe share our concerns," he said.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has argued the
directive might limit opportunities for the unemployed and young people, is
inflexible and "wholly inappropriate" to the UK market. The CBI has
written to European Commission president Romano Prodi raising its concerns.
Stephanie Dale, a partner and head of employment law at Denton Wilde Sapte,
said employment agencies would be hardest hit.
"There will be little attraction in having agency staff if they have to
be treated like permanent members of the organisation," she said.
Laws designed to regulate employment agencies are due to be published by the
Government this summer, and a discussion document reviewing the employment
status of all workers is set for publication within the same timeframe.
By Nic Paton