Better Protection for Temporary Workers

Labour Party

Regulations for temporary and agency workers emanating from the European Union were laid before the British Parliament last week.

This is an important piece of legislation which protects some of the most vulnerable members of our workforce.

Because of this, I am setting out the provisions in some detail:

Tackling abuse

The anti-abuse measure addresses concerns over agency workers being rotated between different roles, either as far as one hirer is concerned or between associated hirers.  Such rotation of role may deprive workers of their employments rights.

There is specific provision in the legislation to deal with structure of assignments designed to circumvent current legislation  backed up with punitive award of up to £5,000 if the provision found to be breached plus a general minimum award of two weeks pay for all successful claims.

Definition of pay

The definition of pay has been broadened to include all bonuses and incentive payments that are directly related to agency worker’s contribution, including those

based on performance appraisal.  The legislation also brings into scope payments by way of vouchers for things like food, child care and transport which may be

important part of their pay for some low paid agency workers.

The disclosure of information for purposes of collective bargaining is an additional requirement for information about agency workers to be disclosed to recognised trade unions in collective bargaining situations.

Protection of qualifying period

The legislation introduces additional reasons why absence means no break in continuity of a qualifying period.  These reasons include school holidays, plant shutdowns and industrial action. There are also stronger provisions on continuity in the event of pregnancy-related absences (providing for 26 weeks protected period as TUC proposed) and movement between different jobs for a pregnancy related reason (continuity will not be broken)

Access to facilities

What had been an exhaustive list of facilities has been changed to a non-exhaustive list and removed the “package approach” (where a ency worker might be denied access if had better conditions on another facility)

Workplace agreements

The regulations exclude the possibility of workplace agreements (and collective agreements) which could derogate from principle of equal treatment.

 Equal treatment

Comparison is now allowed with “worker” when assessing equal access to vacancies and collective facilities.

 Pay between assignments

There is now to be up front information in the contract so that the agency worker is aware that they do not have equal treatment rights on pay.

 The TUC welcomed step towards a fair deal for agency staff.  Commenting on the new rights for agency workers as laid before Parliament , TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

 ‘This is good news for Britain’s agency workers……(It is) a significant step towards securing a fair deal for agency staff and stamping out some of the worst abuses.

 ‘While we are disappointed that the protection will not start earlier, union campaigning – both here and across Europe – has secured another advance for people at work today.’

 UNISON, the UK’s leading public service trade union, also welcomed the

extra protection for temporary workers, outlined in the agency worker


 The union has been instrumental in winning equal treatment for agency

workers after twelve weeks of employment, despite resistance from

employers organisations, that wanted to water down protection for agency


 UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said:

 “It is only right that we legislate to protect this vulnerable group of employees. Unscrupulous bosses cannot be allowed to use temporary employment as a way to pay staff low wages and treat them badly.”