MPs opposing agency workers’ rights Bill lose vote

Opposition MPs have reacted angrily to the progression through Parliament of the controversial Bill on agency workers’ rights.

Despite more than 150 MPs turning up last Friday (22 February) to vote on the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill, which would give agency workers the same terms and conditions as permanent employees, other politicians voiced growing concern about the introduction of any new legislation.

The Bill now goes to Committee stage to be scrutinised before it reaches its third reading.

Speaking at a parliamentary briefing ahead of the vote, shadow business minister Jonathan Djanogly branded the Bill “irrelevant” for failing to address employers’ chief concern: the qualifying period for when agency workers would get the same rights.

He told Personnel Today: “The qualifying period is nothing to do with this Bill it just states ‘equal rights’ for agency workers. The situation in Europe makes this Bill irrelevant.”

Djanogly was referring to the Agency Workers Directive, which the UK government has been stalling over, as its introduction would override any domestic legislation. France will take over the EU presidency on 1 July, and has been tipped to revive plans to reach a consensus. In its current form, the directive would give temps equal rights after six weeks.

Djanogly also added weight to the CBI argument that 250,000 jobs would be put at risk by new laws. “Many small businesses will be put out by the loss in flexibility and convenience of agency workers,” he said.

Lib Dem equality spokeswoman Lorely Burt urged the government to better enforce existing legislation to protect agency workers. Many businesses knew they could flout employment law because they had little chance of being inspected, she said. “It is up to the government to enforce its own rules. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t appropriate or desirable.”

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