Agency Workers Directive exemption proposals slammed by unions and business groups

Unions and business groups have shot down suggested changes to the Agency Worker’s Directive (AWD), which would see temps that earn more than £8.50 per hour exempt from the regulations.

The Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC) has proposed that agency workers who earn one-and-a-half times the minimum wage, which currently stands at £5.73 an hour for adults, should not be covered by the directive for the first year of their assignment.

ARC, established in March to represent recruitment firms’ interests, said the move would help temporary workers remain in jobs as they would not be entitled to equal rights to permanent staff after just 12 weeks in the job.

Last week, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) warned thousands of jobs would be at risk when the AWD comes into force, expected to be by December 2011.

But Anne Fairweather, head of public policy at REC, warned the proposal to cover some temporary workers over others was unworkable.

She told Personnel Today: “We’ve been fighting this directive in various forms over the past decade, but this idea does not fit within the confines of European law. Regardless, this proposal gives the interpretation that an agency worker on minimum wage is vulnerable, and we’re fighting that stereotype.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber slammed the idea. “The whole point of the directive is to provide equal treatment between agency workers and those who are directly employed doing the same job,” he said. “The ARC proposal is completely wrong, both on legal and on ethical grounds.”

However, Adrian Marlow, ARC chairman, insisted the change would save thousands of jobs.

Next week, the association will host a seminar on the idea, which shadow minister for corporate governance Jonathon Djanogly is expected to attend.

Djanogly said: “We are very concerned by the potential job losses and the way this government has gone about implementing the AWD, and we will listen to what people have to say about the directive.”

However, he refused to be drawn on whether the Tories backed the ARC’s proposal.

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