Andrew Miller MP calls on HR to rethink long-term agency contracts

The MP backing a controversial Bill that would give extra rights to agency workers has urged HR professionals to seriously consider whether using such workers on long-term contracts is really in the best interests of their organisation.

The Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill, sponsored by Labour MP Andrew Miller, is due to receive its crucial second reading in Parliament on Friday (22 February).

Miller’s Bill would give agency workers the right to the same terms and conditions as permanent or directly employed staff, such as equal pay, pensions and training entitlements.

More than 100 MPs are expected to attend the debate, heaping more pressure on the government to introduce new legislation.

Employer groups have been unanimous in the view that new laws are not required, as they would diminish labour market flexibility, and put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.

But speaking to Personnel Today, Miller said this argument did not stack up.

“The CBI’s job-loss claim is a complete myth. [The group] said the same thing about the introduction of the National Minimum Wage and its effect on jobs.”

Miller insisted his Bill was not intended to stop organisations taking on agency workers, but to create a level playing field for them in employment. He called it “an obscenity” that long-standing agency workers were not entitled to equal treatment.

“In the interests of good workplace relations, I would urge HR directors to look at the basis on which they take on agency workers,” he said. “The relationship HR professionals build up with their employees needs to be one based on sound employment policies and the standards applied to the rest of the workforce.”

The government is thought to be trying to head off rising business concerns by setting up an independent commission to examine the issue. The commission would bring together employer groups and the TUC to thrash out the finer details, including the length of time in a job before any new rights were granted.

Unions want rights to equal treatment from day one of employment, while the CBI is insisting on at least six months. Miller’s Bill does not include a timeframe, but he indicated that a compromise of a six-week period might be appropriate.

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