Temporary workers Bill “will damage UK business”

Proposed legislation that would give temporary workers the same rights as directly employed staff would damage business, the body representing the UK recruitment industry has warned.

Last week, the Temporary Agency Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Bill, a private members Bill backed by a coalition of major trade unions, was introduced to Parliament.

The Bill aims to give agency workers the same rights as long-term and directly employed staff in key areas, including basic wages, sick pay and holiday pay. Unions claim it would prevent unscrupulous employers exploiting workers and undercutting the pay and conditions of their permanent employees.

But Tom Hadley, external relations manager at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said: “In its current form, the Bill would damage the UK economy and British business, and reduce the opportunities for temporary labour. The Bill would add substantial bureaucracy for employers and agencies.”

The Office for National Statistics estimates there are 1.8 million agency workers, with more than 40% working in the public sector. European legislation – the EU Agency Workers Directive – has remained stalled since 2002, with government commitment to support the directive shaky.

Unions believe the Bill will meet the government’s commitment to ensure protection for temps. As part of the 2004 Warwick Agreement with unions, Labour pledged to introduce domestic legislation to protect these workers should the EU fail to reach a consensus.

The Bill will require the support of 100 MPs if it is to progress beyond its second reading in the House of Commons on 2 March. The coalition of trade unions backing it includes Amicus, the Transport and General Workers’ Union, Unison and the GMB.

In a joint statement, the unions said: “With agency staff now numbering well over one million workers, and set to grow further still, the government cannot continue to place these workers without the most fundamental of employment protections.”

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