Few agency workers would benefit from CBI’s ‘rights after one year’ proposal

Fresh claims that agency workers should be given equal treatment within the first few weeks have emerged after a report found the average length of time such workers stay in their jobs is less than five months.

The report, Agency Working in the UK: What do we know?, by academics at the Universities of Bradford, Leeds and Kent, said giving agency workers the same rights to permanent staff after a year of employment – as suggested by the CBI – would be too late for most.

The average length of tenure for agency workers is four and a half months, and 73% of workers employed through an agency stay with an organisation less than a year, according to the study.

The report comes as the controversial Bill to provide temporary workers with equal treatment to directly employed staff reached Committee stage in the House of Commons.

Gary Slater, senior lecturer in economics at the University of Bradford and co-author of the report, said: “The CBI has called for equal rights to be limited to agency workers with tenure of one year or more.

“Our study shows that almost three-quarters of agency workers would be excluded from coverage if such a restriction were to be put in place, which surely runs counter to the aims of the Bill to provide equal treatment.”

The report’s co-author, Chris Forde, senior lecturer in industrial relations at Leeds University, added that equal treatment for fixed-term contract workers and part-time staff had been assured through recent European directives. “Our study points to the urgent need for similar protection to be extended to agency workers,” he said.

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