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UK – Government looks at staffing industry self-regulation

21 January 2013

Last week, the government announced a consultation into the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 to reform how the recruitment sector is regulated and remove “costly” regulations. 

The consultation, known as the Conduct Regulations, on reforming the regulatory framework for staffing firms is part of a policy to make the labour market more flexible and fair. The closing date for the consultation is on 11 April 2013.

“The recruitment sector plays an important role in ensuring that the UK’s labour market works effectively, enabling people to find permanent and temporary work. However, the legislation that currently governs the sector is outdated and complicated, placing a burden on business and potentially acting as a barrier to growth,” said employment relations minister, Jo Swinson.

Therefore the government is seeking consultation on when it is appropriate for policy makers to impose rules on the staffing industry, and when it is more appropriate for the sector to decide the rules for itself. The Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC) said the government is basically looking into whether self-regulation for recruiters is the way forward.

The consultation is also keen to hear opinions on enforcement and whether individual enforcement would be more effective than the current government enforcement regime. This would suggest that rather than complaints handled by The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), in future any complaint should take the form of a claim by an individual worker to an employment tribunal, the ARC said.

Proposals create "problems" 

The consultation had been expected for some time, following a number of reviews undertaken by the government. But the government proposals have already come into criticism.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s chief executive, Kevin Green, today said the staffing industry needed less bureaucracy and a more modern set of regulations. He warned that some current proposals may create new problems rather than solve existing ones.

“Re-enforcing rules that protect workers from fees and ensure they know their rights are entirely appropriate and mirror what we already require of our paying members through our code of practice,” he said.

“Whereas changes to the wording around temp-to-perm transfer fees and a drive to move the onus of enforcement away from government inspections to a greater reliance on employment tribunals, if implemented, would cause real issues for the industry. It would also be a missed opportunity if the role of umbrella companies, which didn’t exist when the current legislation was enacted, were not addressed in this exercise.”

The consultation can be accessed here

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