New Agency Work Commission will help employers deal with change in the law

An Agency Work Commission has been set up by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) to prepare for new agency workers legislation.

Ahead of the second reading in the European Parliament next month of the controversial EU Agency Workers Directive, which will give temporary workers the same rights as permanent staff after just 12 weeks in post, the REC commission will make recommendations to the government on how the rules can be implemented.

The commission’s members will include recruitment specialists, business and employment law experts.

Before the agency workers’ deal was struck, prime minister Gordon Brown had spoken of setting up an agency workers commission, to iron out details of how to give contractors equal rights. Parallels were drawn with the Low Pay Commission, which negotiates the National Minimum Wage.

The new REC commission will be independent, but will play an important role in advising about practical steps to implement equal rights, according to chief executive Kevin Green.

He said: “We have a crucial part to play in influencing the progress of the Agency Workers Directive in its future phases. This we can only do by giving providers and users of temporary staff a chance to weigh up the options and give direct feedback to government.”

Last month Green told Personnel Today he was annoyed that the REC had been left out of the loop when the agency workers’ deal was struck between the government, TUC and the CBI.

“We should have been in the room talking on behalf of the recruitment industry,” he said at the time. ” I don’t believe that is the right way for business to be done because I don’t believe the CBI can talk on behalf of every business in the UK.”

Employers groups including the CBI welcomed the idea of setting up the REC Commission. CBI director general Richard Lambert said: “There is much work still to be done to ensure that any new rules on agency work do minimal damage to firms and agency workers. The REC’s new commission will provide a valuable contribution to that process.”

CIPD chief executive Jackie Orme said: “We’ll be contributing to the new commission on behalf of our members to ensure that the new regulations are straightforward, workable and don’t create unnecessary burdens.”

It is unlikely that any EU regulations about agency workers will be activated until 2010. However, the REC claims that it is taking the lead on establishing how the Agency Workers Directive will be managed in the UK.

The commission will focus on:

  • The scope of what equal treatment covers
  • Different dispute resolutions to avoid a possible rise in tribunal cases
  • Acknowledging the need to exempt limited company contractors
  • Identifying special issues relating to smaller employers where there are no formal pay bands
  • Workplace agreements that would derogate from the regulations.

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