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Italy – European Court rejects agency worker case

29 April 2013

A recent decision by the European Court of Justice has shed some light on fixed-term employment relationships and their legal implications on temporary employment between a staffing firm and an agency worker.

The case looked at whether an Italian agency worker, Mr Della Rocca, had the right to permanent employment after three of his fixed-term contracts came to an end. He argued that the Framework Directive on Fixed-term Work (No.99/70) also applied to agency workers.

Mr Della Rocca was supplied by Obiettivo Lavoro SpA, a local staffing business, on three consecutive fixed-term contracts to the Italian postal service between 2005 and 2007.  When his assignment ended, he was informed that the contract would not be renewed. Mr Della Rocca then brought a claim forward to a tribunal in Naples, arguing that he was a permanent employee of the postal service and should therefore be protected by the Directive.

The tribunal referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which confirmed that the Directive and the associated Framework Agreement do not apply to the fixed-term employment relationship between an agency worker and a staffing business. The ECJ also clarified that these do further not apply to the employment relationship between an agency worker and a user company, in this case the postal service.

The ECJ argued that the Directive cannot be used to establish a permanent employment relationship between an agency worker and an end-user. The court reasoned that the preamble to the framework agreement makes it clear that the Directive does not apply to fixed-term agency workers assigned to an end user. Further, it said that fixed-term workers include only workers who are directly employed by an employer, excluding agency workers. 

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