Seven out of 10 employers believe their business will be damaged if the draft EU Agency Workers Directive is implemented in its current form.
A major survey of almost 1,000 UK organisations by Personnel Today and Manpower reveals that 71 per cent are concerned the directive will have a negative impact on their company.
Its release coincided with key discussions in Europe that will shape the final content of the draft directive. The directive seeks to give temporary workers the right to the same pay and conditions as permanent employees after just six weeks of employment.
The research also shows 79 per cent of employers think the directive would increase their staffing costs and 73 per cent predict it would lead to more red tape.
Ruth Hounslow, public affairs manager for Manpower, said the survey highlights employers' serious concerns about the directive, which could be adopted by the EU as early as this time next year.
"As drafted, this directive will have a significant negative impact on the UK. Employers will be deterred from using a flexible workforce because it will no longer be nearly as convenient to take on agency workers," she said.
Furthermore, almost half of respondents predict the directive would damage the competitiveness of the UK's economy, and a majority said they would reduce the number of temps they use.
Mike Young, HR director at telecoms group Avaya - which employs agency staff in a number of key technology roles - has no doubt that in its current form, the directive will make employers less likely to use temporary workers.
"The directive will put up costs and take away flexibility. It will make it unattractive to use temps and we would have to become much more selective about hiring them," he said.
David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy for the Engineering Employers Federation, said the survey shows the qualification period must be extended.
"This reinforces our view that the six-week period for temporary staff to qualify for equal rights is completely unacceptable and should be increased to 12 months," he said.
Marcia Roberts, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation's director of external relations, believes the agency workers directive as drafted would undermine the reason for taking on temps. "One of the biggest attractions of agency workers is that they are