Despite recent rumours from anti-EU circles to the contrary, the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (which come into force on 1 October 2011) do not have cataclysmic consequences for the temporary labour market.
1. Temporary workers can’t claim unfair dismissal
The Regulations do not magically turn temporary workers into employees overnight. They don’t enable them to claim unfair dismissal if their assignments and engagements are terminated, unless they are already employees of the employer, hirer or agency.
2. Temps are entitled to the same pay and holidays as employees
They do qualify after 12 weeks engagement with the same hirer for treatment in terms of pay and holidays “as if” they were employees. Attempts to get round these rights by inserting artificial breaks and interruptions between assignments are curtailed by anti avoidance rules. However, the period can be legitimately interrupted by assignments on substantively different tasks to those of earlier assignments.
3. Temporary workers don’t get all employee rights
Not all rights and benefits normally recognisable as employee rights can be claimed by temps under the Regulations, which express as many exclusions from pay and leave rights as definitions of what is included.
4. There is no proper mechanism for policing the Agency Workers Regulations
The Regulations are not without some teeth in that that breach can land agents and employers in Employment Tribunal proceedings pursued by aggrieved agency workers and breaches can give rise to semi punitive awards of up to £5,000. However, other than action taken by workers themselves, there is otherwise no mechanism for policing the Regulations (like an enforcement body).
The Agency Workers Regulations won’t change things drastically but with new research showing that only 7% of employers have conducted an impact assessment, are they adequately prepared? And what will be the impact (if any) on agencies and agency workers?