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The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) urged Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, to “get his facts right” on the UK recruitment industry, following his speech on welfare on Thursday.
The Labour politician claimed that agency workers are used “to unfairly avoid giving people the pay and conditions offered to permanent staff.” He also implied that staffing companies are exclusively hiring candidates from abroad, comments that have not gone down well with REC Chief Executive Kevin Green.
Mr Green called on the Labour leader to focus on the real issues impacting on compliance in the sector. “Whilst we welcome elements of Ed Miliband's speech he just isn't getting his facts right about our industry.”
He said it was a myth that recruitment agencies are sourcing candidates exclusively from overseas. “This simply isn't the case. Time and again our members operating in sectors like manufacturing and hospitality tell us that they struggle to attract home-grown candidates for the roles on offer,” said Mr Green.
“Members supplying higher-end sectors like IT and engineering also report significant problems finding UK candidates with the skills that employers need, and find themselves forced to search abroad to fill these gaps. Labour's focus needs to be on the root cause of the problem – skills deficiencies in the UK workforce and school leavers who are unprepared for the world of work – not on demonising recruitment agencies for doing what they are paid to do by employers.”
But Mr Green added that the more serious issue is Ed Miliband's suggestion that agency workers are undermining the pay and conditions offered to permanent staff. “This oblique reference to the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) is not based on fact and is particularly galling for our industry as it was the last Labour government that was responsible for writing the UK Agency Worker Regulations,” he said.
“The vast majority of agency workers are either receiving full equal treatment with permanent employees after 12 weeks, or are being permanently employed by their agencies and receiving full employment benefits plus additional payments when they are not working as part of that arrangement.”
The REC Chief Executive called on Mr Miliband to focus on the real issues affecting agency workers and the recruitment industry, particularly the growth of unregulated employment intermediaries that facilitate the use of tax, NI and VAT avoidance schemes throughout the labour market.