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U.K. group seeks hold on temp directive

October 23 2008

The chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the United Kingdom's staffing industry trade group, called for Britain to hold off, for now, on implementing a new European directive calling on equal pay for temps.

"The REC has been leading this debate through its Agency Work Commission which aims to ensure that U.K. implementation is practical and workable for both employers and recruiters," said REC Chief Executive Kevin Green. "However, in the current economic climate we're calling for the implementation of these regulations to be pushed back to avoid putting more jobs at risk."

Wednesday, the European Parliament approved the "agency work directive" that requires temporary workers hired through agencies to receive the same pay and have the same working conditions as traditionally hired workers. Management and unions would also have the opportunity to agree to differences. Equal pay and conditions would start on day one for most European countries, but after 12 weeks in the U.K.

The 27 member countries of the European Union have three years to implement the directive.

Anne Fairweather, head of public policy at the REC, said it's difficult to gauge the exact impact of the agency worker directive in the U.K. at this point, and much of its effects will be determined by how it's implemented.

Fairweather said the U.K. market for staffing tends to be a more mature market than the rest of Europe. And temporary workers in Britain include higher-level workers such as doctors and teachers, which doesn't tend to be the case in continental Europe, she said.

In addition, many European countries already have equal treatment of temps, and other countries' greater regulations over pay make it easier to compute equal wages, Fairweather said. In the U.K., pay is individually negotiated and some staffing buyers may not have a pay scale or a formal pay system for their own staffs, making it more difficult to set equal pay.

The U.K.'s staffing industry is a GBP26.6 billion (US$43.7 billion) staffing industry, according to the REC.

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