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Fears are exaggerated that if Business Secretary Vince Cable changes the agency workers' regulations in a bid to simplify them for employers, infuriated unions would walk away from the 12-week deal and insist on equal rights from day one.
This is the view of Adrian Marlowe, Chairman of the Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC) in response to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph where employers warned Cable that his proposed review of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR), particularly the 12-week rule, might put a brake on the employment of temporary workers and thus put a big dent in the income of recruitment agencies. Under the current agreement between the CBI and TUC, temporary workers are due to get the same pay and working conditions as permanent staff after 12 weeks in a job, rather than on day one, as unions originally demanded.
"Business leaders are being unnecessarily cautious" warns Marlowe. "A secret deal was struck by the last Government with the CBI and TUC and despite the fact that the 12-week rule was not included in the original European Directive, and was a gold-plated 'add on', the major problem is not the rule itself but the fact that recruitment agencies could potentially become enmeshed in situations for which they have no responsibility. The ARC is not arguing for the 12 week rule to be abolished but to be simplified and made more logical and equitable."
Marlowe agrees with Keith Luxon, Human Resources (HR) director at water company Veolia Water, who warned the government, via the columns of the Daily Telegraph, to weigh up any unintended consequences of revamping the law which might damage its current flexibility and the active temporary employment market.
Marlowe said "only last week Vince Cable said that the deluge of new regulations has been choking off enterprise for too long and that we must move away from the view that the only way to solve problems is to regulate. Therefore surely it makes sense to sort out the AWR before it comes into force so that they treat workers, agencies and employers equitably. It is hard to see why this would cause the unions to walk away from a done deal."
ARC is determined to put forward a balanced case that will benefit all sides and not unduly penalise agencies that may be unfairly dragged into a cycle of litigation and liability over which they have no control.