Minster of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform Pat McFadden has insisted that action on temporary worker rights has not been sidelined until after a general election.
He told Personnel Today that the government was still trying to find a way to give temps equal rights to full-time employees.
Prime minister Gordon Brown failed to mention the issue in his speech to the Labour Party conference earlier this week.
But McFadden told Personnel Today: “The agency workers issue is one that is still being talked about. The position has not changed. We would like to reach agreement but it needs to be right for the UK.”
Trade unions want legislation to be passed either by the UK or the EU to give agency workers full employment rights from their first day in a job. Employers want temps to have to work for at least one year at a company before gaining such rights.
Employers had feared that Brown would promise agency worker legislation to secure union support for an election campaign.
Instead his talk, mainly backed by trade unions, focused on affordable housing, tackling crime and a clean-up of hospitals.
Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley said: “It was nice to see a Labour leader giving a Labour speech. It was not Biblical but it was inspirational.
“I could say that if you want flexibility and fairness, where is something on agency workers? But now is not the time to criticise.”
Nick Bowes, UK campaigns advisor at manufacturers’ body the EEF, said it appeared from Brown’s speech that employers had “nothing to fear” from a Labour election victory.