Tribunal ruling leaves employers vulnerable

Employers have been left open to a range of tribunal claims after a legal
ruling found that bosses and not recruitment agencies can be held liable for
temporary employees.

In Dacas v Brook Street, the Court of Appeal said the Employment Appeal
Tribunal (EAT) was wrong to conclude that a disgruntled temporary worker was
employed by the recruitment agency.

The ruling could have huge implications for employers hiring temps as
lawyers believe the judgment was clearly intended as definitive guidance.

Dacas, a cleaner for Wands-worth Council through the Brook Street Bureau
agency, claimed unfair dismissal against both organisations after more than
four years of service.

Jonathan Chamberlain, a partner at law firm Wragge & Co, said the
decision fundamentally changes the employment triangle between temps, firms and
agencies and entitles temporary workers to employment rights after only one
year of service.

"Any employer that has large numbers of long-term temps will have to
urgently review these arrangements," said Chamberlain. "This area is
crying out for legislation as the judges have gone as far as they can."

Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development (CIPD), said employers must now carefully consider
their relationship with agency workers.

"This shows the courts are increasingly examining the nature of the
employment relationship. It’s a significant ruling for employers and they now
need to manage relationships very carefully," he said.

Willmott warned that companies could face claims such as unfair dismissal if
temporary workers were integrated into the workforce through appraisal systems,
company uniforms or day to day duties.

"This is a grey area at the moment. Employers can take steps to manage
the situation, such as ensuring that the agency has given the employee a
written contract," he added.

The controversial European directive on temporary workers, that would
officially give agency staff comparable pay and rights, is still stalled at
Europe’s Council of Ministers following staunch opposition from several nations
led by the UK.

By Ross Wigham

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