Belfast Telegraph

Firms 'unprepared' for new rules to protect agency staff

By David Prosser

Many companies that regularly use agency workers hired on a temporary basis have done no preparation for new rules on the rights of such staff that are due to come into force in less than four months' time, new research suggests.

A survey by the recruitment agency de Poel suggests that 40 per cent of businesses have yet to plan for the Agency Workers Directive, new regulations that become law on October 1.

Almost two-thirds of businesses - 60 per cent - say they are opposed to the regulation, which is being introduced following European Union legislation.

The new rules are intended to give agency workers who have worked for a company for more than 12 weeks the same basic employment rights and working conditions as if they had been recruited directly by the hirer.

The rules are being introduced to ensure that the UK complies with the European Union's Agency Workers Directive, but Britain will be affected more than many other member states. About four per cent of the British workforce is provided through agencies, which is almost double the European average.

Although the new rules are relatively straightforward, leading employment agencies specialising in temporary workers have warned that they could be complicated to implement and could saddle employers with substantial additional costs.

In theory, the Department of Business is meant to be operating with a "one-in, one-out" rule that sees new regulation introduced only where existing rules have been scrapped.

"The introduction of the agency workers rules is a positive step for employers and temporary workers, but it is not without its challenges," said Matthew Sanders, the chief executive of de Poel.

"By putting temporary agency workers on equal terms with permanent employees with regard to pay and conditions, it presents an enormous challenge for the recruitment industry as well as companies who recruit agency staff."