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Europe – Agency Work Directive has failed to lift unjustified restrictions

24 March 2014

Following the European Commission’s application review report on the EU Directive on temporary agency work (2008/104/EC), assessing how the Directive has been transposed into national law and whether there is a need for follow‐up actions. Eurociett considers the conclusions of the review to be overall disappointing. The report acknowledges that the principle of equal treatment has been transposed (Article 5), but lacks a clear commitment to limit restrictions on temporary agency work as foreseen under Article 4 of the Directive.

Commenting on the Commission Report, Eurociett President Annemarie Muntz said: “Contrary to what the Commission’s review report says, Eurociett finds that the Directive has not been transposed in a balanced way. While equal treatment for agency workers is in place in all EU member states, unjustified restrictions on temporary agency work still exist. Countries including Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden restrict the use of agency work in laws as well as collective labour agreements. These restrictions are stifling temporary work agencies and preventing them from creating jobs and contributing to competitiveness and growth.

While the Directive in article 4 clearly reduces the scope for justifications to which Member States may resort to restrict the use of temporary agency work, too many restrictions are still in place, including prohibitions on the sectors that can make use of agency work, setting limits to the number of agency workers in a company, or restricting the reasons to use agency work services.”

The Directive states that restrictions on the use of agency work by Member States will be tolerated only in exceptional cases, and it provides that by the end of 2011 any prohibition on agency work will only be acceptable if it can be ‘justified on grounds of [the] general interest’.

The application review report is addressed to the EU Council and European Parliament. It needs to be discussed and followed‐up at European and national level to create more adaptable and inclusive labour markets, providing new hope to Europe’s unemployed.

The Directive is based on a two‐fold approach. Firstly, the protection of agency workers and developing flexible forms of employment with a view to contributing to growth and job creation. And secondly, the need to review restrictions on temporary agency work and to lift the unjustified ones. European staffing firms and their clients will be understandably aggrieved that, while legislators have moved to address the protection of agency workers, they have failed to lift unjustified restrictions across many important European staffing markets.

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