Judge claims UK laws on temporary workers are far from satisfactory

The employment rights of agency workers have been called into question again after a senior judge condemned UK laws on temps as “far from satisfactory”.

At an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) for unfair dismissal against Haringey Council in London last month, Mr Justice Bean ruled that the claimant, a temporary estates officer, was neither an employee of the council nor of the employ­ment agency.

But, in giving his decision, the judge said: “The state of the law regarding the status of long-term agency workers is, in my view, far from satisfactory, but it will need legislation to change it.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said it underlined why temporary workers needed better protection. “Agency workers have very few rights and this can lay them open to exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous employers,” he told Personnel Today.

“New laws are needed to stop temps from being unfairly dismissed, being paid less per hour [than full-time staff] and being denied sick and maternity pay.”

Adam Turner, employment lawyer at law firm Lovells, said: “The UK’s agency market is the biggest in Europe and the fact that employers are not regarded as liable for temporary workers is seen as a big plus.

“This ruling is another indication that this area needs addressing.”

The TUC is backing the Temporary Agency Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Bill, a ­private members’ Bill introduced by Labour MP Paul Farrelly. The government is also consulting on the rights of vulnerable agency workers.


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