Government urged to resist pressure from unions and EU to improve rights of agency or temp workers

A leading employers’ organisation has urged the government to stand firm in 2008 under increasing union pressure to implement employee-friendly European Union legislation.

Trade unions have been pushing strongly for the introduction of the Agency Workers Directive, which would give temps full employment rights from the first day of joining a company. But employers’ groups want a qualifying period of a whole year with one firm before gaining full rights.

Pressure is also mounting to end the UK’s opt-out of the Working Time Directive, which limits staff to a 48-hour working week.

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at manufacturers’ body the EEF, said: “We want the government to maintain its firm stance on resisting EU employment legislation on working time and temporary agency workers that would undermine the flexibility of the UK’s labour market.”

Fears that domestic legislation will be passed have grown after EU ministers failed to reach agreement on the Agency Workers Directive last month. Labour MP Andrew Miller is to introduce the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill in February, with backing from unions.

Yeandle also called on the government to continue to support ‘good’ employers by exempting them from prescriptive employment legislation.

He also warned that employers would not accept the government making pre-election concessions for the unions over the next two years that would affect business competitiveness.

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