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UK – Government plans AWR review after “misunderstandings”

28 September 2012

Monday 1st October sees the anniversary of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) aimed at improving employment terms and conditions for agency workers in the UK.

Several surveys have shown that one year on, many organisations continue to struggle with the practical effects or to understand how certain provisions are to be interpreted.

Meanwhile a review by the government, planned for next year, is keenly awaited to provide further clarification and Richard Sheldon, Senior Associate at international law firm Eversheds, has now commented on the matter.

He said that a picture of considerable misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the regulations is emerging often due to the way in which the regulations are drafted.

“Whilst our experience is that some hirers were ahead of the game and took steps to prepare for the regulations early on, many organisations have yet to implement them properly or in full – frequently because they are unclear as to what is required.”

“Others, on the same basis, have adopted an approach which exceeds requirements, often resulting from misunderstanding of the law and incurring additional, avoidable expense,” said Mr Sheldon. 

Particular areas of concern include the extent to which benefits, such as bonus pay, apply to agency workers, with the regulations apparently distinguishing between performance-related elements “but leaving little indication of how this applies to the very many schemes which take into account both individual and corporate performance,” he said.

According to him, one of the most difficult aspects of the regulations is the “pay between assignment contracts” as it is unclear at what stage these can be used.

“Getting things wrong carries potentially high risks and may be stacking up huge liabilities for the future,” according to Mr Sheldon.

Although employment tribunal cases will provide some clarification on these issues “in due course”, it will take time for them to arise.

“It remains to be seen, therefore, whether the Government will seize the initiative and intervene next year, to address those issues of greatest uncertainty. Were they to do so, this would be likely to prove beneficial to all, removing some of the barriers to compliance but also to more confident recruitment of agency workers.”

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