Government finalises temporary work rules

The government has gone ahead and laid before parliament the final regulations to give temporary agency workers new rights from next year, ignoring appeals to let industry comment on them first.

The Association of Recruitment Consultancies said that, despite consultations in May and November of last year, industry should have been given the final word on the rules because they still contain "many anomalies".

Seeming to agree, another IT staffing body - the Association of Professional Staffing Companies said that the rules to implement the EU Agency Workers Directive in the UK were "riddled with inconsistencies".

To evidence their claim, APSCo pointed out that while most limited company contractors were unlikely to be affected by the rules, temporary workers on similar pay operating through umbrella companies would be.

There is also a risk that the estimated £1billion annual cost for employers to comply "will be borne by contractors who usually earn more than permanent staff but may now get lower pay rates," the group said.

"The exclusion of limited company contractors from the regulations is a huge victory for the professional recruitment sector," said APSCo chief executive Ann Swain, pointing to the exclusion for the 'genuinely' self-employed.

"Determining whether limited company contractors are genuinely self-employed or not is hugely complicated and is not something recruiters will be able to do reliably without detailed guidance."

To this end, the association said it would seek clarification on the issue, which was troubling policymakers in the close of last year, so it can work with the government to compile draft guidelines.

The UK's recruitment watchdog - The Recruitment and Employment Confederation – welcomed the government's continued push to remove its members' self-employed customers from the scope of the legislation.

"There are a number of areas in the final regulations that give cause for concern," the REC cautioned. "Our priority now is to work with government on the official guidance documents to influence the way that the new requirements on recruiters will be interpreted."

Adrian Marlow, chairman of ARC, signaled that it was too early to confirm what the realties on the ground for affected workers would be: "The jury must be out until the detail can be seen," he said. "We are not jumping to any conclusions."

The government said that its move to lay out the final regulations delivers on its pledge to get them on the statute book before the end of this parliament.

However, it added that its decision not to enshrine them until October affords agencies, hirers and workers "the time to prepare and plan".

Sunday 24th January 2010