The draft directive on temporary workers has created a furore among industry
leaders and politicians. But what do those at the sharp end of staff planning
think it will mean for business? Compiled by Nic Paton
A large number of temporary jobs may carry the same job title as people
working permanently in another part of the business.
But often the structure is modified compared with those jobs, so a key
question will be: is there going to be a general comparison against the same
named job or will it have to be more specific?
At the moment, a lot of shorter temporary assignments arise from decisions
made at a relatively junior level, so there will have to be an assessment of
managers’ ability at that level.
It is quite likely that a few employers will put in quite draconian methods
to make sure employees are never used for more than four or six weeks, so that
they will lose the benefit of continuity and there will be a great succession
of waves of temporary staff coming in every four weeks.
If you get a piece of legislation like this, that many organisations feel
makes no sense, then employers are more likely to try to get around it. It may
require a whole raft of bureaucracy.
It is very difficult to understand why it is that Europe still does not
accept that temporary work is a legitimate and different form of employment in
its own right.
The EU assumes that the only model of employment is the long-term perm-anent
employee. The permanent job, fixed-term employment that this legislation is
imposing is not to the benefit of many agency or indeed to temporary workers
User companies will incur extra costs because they will have to put new
systems in place.
It will also put a great deal of emphasis on the agencies, which will either
have to increase their charges or narrow their margins, so reducing the money
they have to invest in temporary staff. It will drive the users and the
industry in completely different directions and reduce competitiveness.
We are not arguing that there should not be similar protection, but under
this new model, you could have a situation where you have 20 different terms of
employment dictated by 20 different users.
It should also be remembered that at this stage the directive is still a
draft, people are too often presenting it as a fait accompli.
Deputy chief executive, British Hospitality Association
Agency workers in the hospitality
industry tend to be used for one-off events, such as running a banquet in one
hotel one night before moving on to another location for the next.
If the directive stays as it is and only applies to workers who
are employed for six weeks or more, then I do not think it will have a major
effect. I suspect the real problem will be less in changes to terms and
conditions and more in whether it adds bureaucracy and costs. How, for
instance, do you make sure agency staff working for just one night know of any
Personnel manager, Bristol Water
Most of the people we have on agency
terms are with us for less than six weeks.
Those that are with us longer will be on the same pay rates and
will often end up being employed by us anyway.
My concern with the legislation is not the principle, but that
it may be made so difficult that you have to jump through hoops to comply.
Often more effort goes into proving you are complying than in
the complying itself.
If we can make comparisons on overall terms and conditions that’s
fine, but not if we have to go through each one bit by bit.
UK HR director, Avaya
If you are looking at the low pay end
of the market, it is understandable why you might want to offer people more protection
from unscrupulous traders, but for the IT end of the market it is different.
The hourly rate for these guys will almost certainly be higher
than that of the in-house person. If we had to bring in additional benefits you
might see those rates being cut, which in turn might reduce the availability of
people in that kind of work. In my experience, contractors prefer the
flexibility of their work, while employers like having a resource they can turn
on and off. Anything restrictive which adds costs will reduce flexibility on
Lead adviser on public policy, CIPD
The biggest risk is that it will
restrict choice about how people want to participate within the labour market.
Some believe there will be more agency workers because agency
work will be more attractive, but we don’t know whether the increase will be
met by increased demand.
Currently, agency work is often used as a quick response to a
need. But if the user organisation has to become involved in more bureaucracy
in identifying the right terms and conditions of each agency worker, there is a
risk it might use fewer agency staff. A lot will depend on the fine text.