The Conservatives have indicated they will review new agency workers regulations if they come to power after the general election.
Shadow business minister Jonathan Djanogly told an audience of recruitment professionals and employers that the regulations – due to come into force in October 2011 as part of the European Agency Workers Directive (AWD) – would reduce the flexibility of the UK’s labour market.
Critics of the new laws – which give temps equal rights to permanent employees after 12 weeks in a job – have warned they will lead to a loss of income for recruitment companies as employers seek to reduce reliance on temps to compensate for the extra cost of hiring them.
Djanogly said: “As things stand, the regulations are counter-intuitive. They should encourage the agency market and not detract from it. The future will be about flexibility in the workplace. Agency workers are a key way to get young people into the workplace, and the regulations will have a negative impact in this respect.”
He also suggested that trade unions wanted the legislation because it provided a bigger pool of workers that could be unionised.
Djanogly indicated that if the Tories were elected, then they would be happy to review the proposed legislation as they were “very unhappy” about the fact that the proposed 12-week qualifying period was not set out in the AWD, nor was there any consultation from employers, the recruitment industry, or Parliament.
The CBI and TUC struck a deal with the government in May 2008 following pressure from the European Union to resolve the issue.
Djanogly was speaking at an event organised by the Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC).
The ARC’s chairman Adrian Marlowe said a ‘two-tier system’ for agency workers – with the lowest paid achieving rights after 12 weeks, and the more skilled, higher-paid workers after 12 months – was fairer.
XpertHR has a range of FAQs on employing agency workers and contracts of employment.