Employment minister Alan Johnson has vowed to protect the flexibility of the UK labour market by fighting for changes to the draft EU Agency Workers Directive at a crucial meeting today.
As drafted, the directive would mean employers would have to offer temporary workers the same employment conditions as permanent staff from day one of employment. They would also be entitled to the same salary after a six-week qualification period.
Johnson said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is not happy with this situation and will be pushing for a significant increase in the qualification period when the EU Council of Ministers meets later today.
The minister, speaking at a conference on Friday, said that in its current form, the directive would discourage employers from hiring temporary workers because of the increased red tape involved in ensuring equal conditions and pay.
“The process of hiring temps would become more complex and bureaucratic and could leave some without work,” he said.
A DTI source told Personnel Today it would be calling for a return to the original position of a one-year qualification period, although anything above six weeks would be an improvement.
The minister’s stance was welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF), both of which have called for the qualification period to be extended to one year.
Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “There is a real risk of damaging the flexibility of the labour market if the qualification period is not extended substantially.”
Meanwhile, the EEF’s deputy director of employment policy, David Yeandle, said: “It is very pleasing the minister has taken note of employers’ concerns on this issue.”
Johnson promised to look at the issue of agency worker rights again as part of the DTI’s employment status review.
By Ross Wigham