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Eurociett OK with temporary worker regulations

October 27 2008

Eurociett, the trade group for European staffing firms, backs a decision by the European Parliament to give temporary workers employed through staffing firms the same pay and working conditions as traditionally employed workers. The new rule, known as the agency worker directive, requires the 27 members of the European Union to establish equal treatment rules for temporary workers within three years.

"We are really happy with this decision to adopt the agency directive," Denis Pennel, managing director of Eurociett, said Friday.

In addition to equal treatment, the directive could remove restrictions on temporary work in some areas, Pennel said. Countries would be required to review prohibitions against temporary workers, unless they can be justified for specific reasons. Pennel cited rules prohibiting temporary workers in the public sector in France, Belgium and Spain as among the prohibitions that could be removed.

Pennel also said 20 European countries already had equal treatment legislation. The United Kingdom and Ireland had no legal provisions on equal treatment and five other countries had no regulations on temporary workers at all.  

The directive could open up temporary work in some countries. Pennel said unions in Bulgaria have been against temporary workers, and the country has had no laws regarding temporary workers. But the agency workers directive will require that the country create regulations and pave the way for such workers.

There are some fears the agency worker directive might reduce the size of the market in the U.K. and Ireland. Pennel said there might be a decrease for a couple of months, but ultimately temporary work agencies in those countries could benefit because the average wage would increase and revenues for staffing firms would increase. There might be fewer workers, but the workers would be better paid.

However, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the industry trade group in Britain, called for the U.K. government to hold off on implementing the directive for now to avoid putting jobs at risk in this tough economic time. A representative for the organization said the effects on the U.K. market won't be fully known until the government implements the rules.

While the directive requires temporary workers to get equal pay and conditions starting day one in most of Europe, it will start after 12 weeks in the U.K. A press release from the CBI, which represents U.K. business interests in the European Union, reported that more than half of temporary assignments last less than 12 weeks.

Pennel also said the directive sets minimums, it does not prevent companies from paying temporary workers more.

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