Agent work

The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003 have been some time in the making. But after a number of consultations, the update to the 1976 Regulations finally comes into force this month, with a three-month period for implementation.

Bill Shipton
Chairman, Association of Online Recruiters

If the online recruitment industry is required to adhere to some of the onerous regulations then the online business model ceases to be workable. (Under current legislation the definition of an employment agency covers jobs websites such as workthing and totaljobs).

As there is no physical interaction between the candidate, the jobs board and the client, the website, effectively, could sit anywhere in the world. And the moment the board moves offshore, then the regulations will cease to apply and the DTI will have failed in its desire to ensure the best interests of work seekers and hirers are met.

The AOLR has been in talks with the DTI for two years and in a recent meetings it said that had Ian Huntley applied for that job [meaning convicted killer Huntley’s successful application to become a caretaker at a Soham school] through a jobs board, then under current regulations the jobs board could be liable for not having checked him out. In many instances, the board is not aware of who is applying for the jobs so we have an issue.

Although jobs boards are covered by the new regulations, the DTI acknowledges that the online issue is unresolved and wishes to resolve it by the summer. It has assured us that it will not pursue and prosecute an online business by virtue of the fact that its business model is the same on the 5 April as on 6 April.

The online industry is in a state of flux and we will not know the impact of the regulations until we have completed the process of negotiation and, hopefully a different position for online businesses as opposed to traditional recruitment agencies.

David Drummond
UK finance director, Michael Page

Anything that the DTI does to reduce malpractice in our industry is good for us. If it raises the profile of recruitment businesses by removing opportunities for bad practice then I welcome it.

Michael Page operates in a straightforward fashion with relatively few candidate and client disputes so I don’t think it will cause us a lot of pain.

Some elements of the legislation seem to emanate from individual complaints that the DTI has received and it is a shame that it has to legislate across the entire recruitment industry to cover some small areas in non-compliance. The downside of this is that it means a lot of administration to cover some relatively small issues.

I wouldn’t say we are 100 per cent happy with the legislation, but it’s an improvement on the DTI’s first version.

Steve Huxam
Director, Huxham Associates and chairman of The Recruitment Society

This is the biggest shake-up in agency law for almost 30 years. It will apply equally to temporary and permanent solution providers.

I recently opened a seminar by telling the audience that it was refreshing to see that there are still enthusiastic recruitment companies that want to stay in business, considering the burden of all the legislation the industry has to deal with.

The speed at which the legislation is being introduced has taken us all by surprise. People have had only months to digest the implications of the Agency Worker Directive. There has also been a frustrating lack of information on the subject. I don’t think it is a return to the old regulators and demands to see the books. But there is genuine scepticism in the industry of the DTI’s ability to enforce such legislation.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Ruth Hounslow
Head of public affairs, Manpower

This update is much needed as the industry and the labour market has changed significantly since the 1970s.

As with many pieces of new legislation and regulation, it can often be the smaller agencies that have to make the most alterations to their business practices.

As Manpower provides full employment contracts for temporary employees and already meets and excels the minimum standards required, these regulations are unlikely to have a significant impact on Manpower’s clients.

A key concern, however, for all employment businesses was the future of temp-to-perm fees.  This practice encourages agencies to invest in the training of temporary workers to offer clients staff with the right skills, whether they remain temporary staff or become permanent.

These fees will continue to exist, although some limits will apply to prevent temporary workers being denied permanent employment opportunities.

Agencies and clients must agree fees and hire periods up front, and an eight-week quarantine period will be introduced to protect agencies from losing temporary workers to clients or third parties after investing in recruitment and training.

Manpower welcomes this move to update and improve on minimum standards in our industry together with the opportunity to work with Government and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation in revising legislation.

The protection of workers and flexibility is key to the efficiency of the UK labour market.

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