Temps directive unworkable unless the draft is changed

The EU draft directive giving temporary staff equal pay and benefits as permanent
employees has met with strong opposition from all sides. Ross Wigham reports

The draft EU directive giving temporary workers the same pay and benefits as
permanent staff will create a raft of new red tape for HR professionals and
force employers to scale back their use of agency workers.

This is the view of both employers and recruitment agencies opposing the
introduction of the directive, which in its current form means temporary
workers will be entitled to equal terms and conditions as permanent staff once
they have been employed for six weeks.

The CIPD fears that the directive, published last month, will make the
process of hiring temps so complex that many companies will abandon the use of
temps altogether – placing an increasing burden on permanent staff.

Diane Sinclair, CIPD employee relations adviser, said: "Currently a
host organisation has little to do with the pay of agency staff but the draft
will mean firms having to ensure the correct pay and conditions are in place.
It’s going to be a very bureaucratic process given that agencies are normally
used as a quick response to staffing problems.

"HR will have to weigh up the pros and cons of using agency staff and
look at recruitment policies in general. They may also have to use permanent
staff more flexibly."

HR professionals share the institute’s concerns. Laurie Hibbs, HR consultant
for Capital One, thinks many employers will increase the amount of paid and
unpaid overtime carried out by staff instead of employing temporary staff – affecting
employees’ work-life balance.

"It would also be an administrative nightmare creating an additional
burden on over-legislated HR/payroll departments, since every temp would have
to be enrolled and removed from benefit providers on a frequent basis," he

Hibbs told Personnel Today temporary workers will also lose out if the
directive is not changed significantly before it is adopted.

"Temps don’t want pension benefits, private medical care and so on – they
want to be able to earn a cash sum and have the flexibility to change
employment at will – by enforcing these conditions it will cost both the
company and the ‘temp’," he said.

The directive still has to be passed through the Council of Ministers and
European Parliament, leaving room for manoeuvre before it becomes law.

Marcia Roberts, director of external relations at the Recruitment and
Employment Confederation, said the present version will be unworkable.

"We’re still hoping that this draft won’t be the final version because
it’s going to mean chaos if it stays in its current form – which is impractical
and difficult to apply," she said.

"If an agency has 100 clients with 200 different roles it would need as
many sets of terms and conditions drawn up. Employers and agencies would have
to look at every temporary role."

The six-week qualification period, after which temps are entitled to equal
pay and conditions, should be extended to at least 18 months according to the
Engineering Employers’ Federation.

David Yeandle, the EEF’s deputy director of employment, said: "The
six-week period is totally unrealistic and the comparative should be another
temporary worker, not a permanent one. This will increase costs and make it
more difficult to deal with changes in economic and business conditions."

What the EU agency will mean if introduced in its current form

– Temporary staff will be entitled to the same pay and conditions as
comparable permanent employees

– It will apply to all temps working
at a firm for more than six weeks

– Employers will have to negotiate
separate sets of pay and benefits, as will agencies

– Qualifications and skills can be
taken into account when drawing up conditions

– Experts estimate it could be
introduced as early as the start of next year

– The UK has 1 million temps
available for work each day

The agency view

The directive will have a huge impact on the agencies that
provide businesses with temporary staffJames Reed, CEO, Reed Recruitment Group

James Reed, CEO
Reed Recruitment Group

"The UK’s temporary workforce includes experts who are paid high rates.
The flexibility this offers has played a huge part in the fact that the UK has
enjoyed lower unemployment than Europe. Without a doubt, all temps in the UK
need to be paid a fair rate and legislation to help this is welcome, however I
believe this would be bad for individuals, bad for companies and bad for the
economic health of the country."Keith Faulkner, non-executive director,

Keith Faulkner, non-executive director

"The proposal under consideration will turn the clock back and impose
increased rigidity. We already provide our temporary staff with employment
contracts that in turn provide the rights to be paid redundancy and claim
unfair dismissal. These proposals will stifle the demand for short-term
temporary staff by imposing unnecessary and irrelevant burdens on user
companies and achieve little for the temporary worker."

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