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Today marks the end of the official implementation phase for the EU Directive on Temporary Agency Work (2008/104/EC). The Directive sought the protection of temporary agency workers based on the principal of equal treatment. This element was balanced in the text of the Directive with the review and lifting of unjustified restrictions on the agency work industry. Where implementation has occurred it has shown to be mostly unbalanced; with equal treatment implemented by law in Member States, but the corresponding lifting of unjustified restrictions on agency work still pending.
“Further action is needed at national level to review and lift existing, unjustified restrictions on the agency work industry, especially in countries that face major labour market challenges such as Spain – where labour market reforms fell short in implementation, and Greece – where there is a lack of government commitment to lifting unjustified restrictions,” commented Eurociett President Annemarie Muntz.
There were some positives to take from implementation including equal treatment becoming the general rule for agency work in Europe, the establishment of regulation in several Eastern European countries and the lifting of some restrictions. This included the removal of sectoral bans (France, Romania, Spain), an extension of the range of contracts temporary work agencies can offer (France, Italy) and an increase in the maximum length of agency work assignments (Romania, Poland).
These breakthroughs are however outnumbered by the instances where Members States have not yet transposed the Directive, or have not yet removed unjustified restrictions on agency work as a result of the review. The deadline for adapting national agency work regulation will not be met by a number of Member States including Belgium, Greece and Italy that are still working on fully implementing the provisions of the Directive in national law.
Eurociett has delivered its warning on unbalanced implementation in a letter sent today to the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission. Eurociett will continue to engage the European Commission and social partners on how to improve the implementation of the Directive by Member States.
The Directive upholds the principles of equal treatment to be applied throughout Europe, while allowing flexibility to derogate from this by collective labour agreements or in case of open-ended contracts providing pay between assignments. Social dialogue is key to creating tailor-made solutions. Having been put into practice by The Netherlands, Germany, the Nordic countries and Austria, social dialogue could serve as an example for other Member states to make progress on full implementation.
“Provision for derogations through collective labour agreements and open-ended contracts offers a needed level of flexibility and ensures that the interests of business and workers are balanced in an appropriate way, while strengthening the sectoral social dialogue and collective bargaining within the agency work sector” added Muntz.
The Directive aims to unlock the contribution of agency work to job creation, participation and integration in the labour market. As countries across Europe seek to reduce unemployment and boost labour market participation following the recession, the flexibility afforded by the agency work industry offers an attractive incentive for both employers and employees in providing secure, quality jobs. Since the low point of the crisis private employment agencies have created more than 900,000 new jobs in Europe.
Indeed, the agency work industry is a key driver of job creation, providing work opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Looking to the future, Eurociett believes that further labour market reforms will be needed if countries are to adapt successfully to the fundamental, structural changes taking place. It is no surprise that countries with better regulated labour markets, such as Germany and the Netherlands, have withstood the crisis better than those where unjustified restrictions still exist.
The recent report from Eurociett and the Boston Consulting Group, “Adapting to Change”, found that agency work has the potential to play a key role in making increasingly volatile labour markets more efficient. This is of particular benefit to first-time labour market entrants and young people, who represent 60% of people employed as agency workers. The research included a regulatory efficiency index, which assesses four dimensions of national regulation on the agency work industry (right of establishment, right to provide services, negation & social protection and contribution to labour market policies). The report found that countries taking a liberal or social dialogue approach to agency work regulation tend to have better functioning markets.