The TUC’s latest move in complaining to the EU Commission that the UK implementation of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) has not adequately protected agency workers rights is ‘cynical’ says the Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC).
Adrian Marlowe, chairman of the ARC, said “The AWR came into being after an agreement was reached between the CBI and the TUC in May 2008. The deal required both sides of industry to work together in implementing these regulations, and ultimately agreement was reached in a number of notable different areas, for example the 12 week qualification period was agreed, and the terms of the so called ‘Swedish Derogation’ were also accepted by all sides. Both of these areas are termed as ‘derogations’ under the Agency Workers Directive, which required the agreement of the ‘social partners’, namely the TUC and the CBI, to be effective. It is not now appropriate for the TUC as a consenting ‘social partner’ to complain to the EU to try to undo what is a legally binding arrangement.”
ARC recalls that on 16th September 2009 the TUC by resolution welcomed the adoption of the regulations despite a call by its member union UNITE to oppose any derogation for “agency workers who have permanent contracts and who are paid between assignment, as this could exclude thousands of agency workers who would significantly lose out on pay and defeat the whole objective of the Directive of equal treatment”.
Marlowe continued “Agencies and end users have worked extraordinarily hard to comply with the Regulations, which are complex and administratively burdensome. Agency workers engaged under the Swedish Derogation now have full employment rights and entitlement to continued payment in between assignments. Agency workers also have in some cases more rights than regular employees.”
Referring to the concession made by the CBI at the time to its argument that the qualification period should be much longer than 12 weeks, Marlowe concluded ” If the TUC thinks its complaint is fair then no doubt it would accept a complaint from the CBI that the qualification period should be extended. This would stop the layoff of agency workers at the 12 week point, something that agency workers have suffered from to their detriment directly as a result of these regulations. The TUC cannot have its own cake and eat it.”
The ARC led a high profile and successful campaign in 2009 to 2010 to limit the negative impact of the regulations. It also recently took part in a government review of the workings of the AWR, and continues to argue for change to the Swedish Derogation to rule out anomalies which could lead to unnecessary claims.