Mandelson urged to exclude IT contractors from Agency Workers Directive

An EU directive to give agency workers the same rights as full-time employees should exclude skilled contractors, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has been told.

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies told the minister to exempt freelancers from the Agency Workers Directive for the good of the UK labour market.

Without the directive differentiating between "highly paid, highly skilled" temps who use agencies, and "vulnerable" agency workers, flexibility of the market will suffer.

Forcing firms to treat specialist agency workers as employees from week 12 in work will also add to firms' administrative burdens at a time when they can least afford it.

Issuing these warnings in a letter to Lord Mandelson, APSCo also said removing agency contractors from the AWD's scope would better protect the vulnerable, as ministers intended.

"It is vital that the government understands that the recruitment market in the UK is hugely diverse," APSCo said in the letter, which is backed by the CBI, the employers' group.

Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, whose members include IT recruiters, added: "There is a world of difference between the contractors APSCo members place and the kind of 'vulnerable' workers this legislation is designed to protect."

The AWD will entitle agency workers who have worked on assignment with the same end user for at least 12 weeks to at least 'equal treatment' as permanent workers.

'Equal treatment' is yet to be defined, but it will definitely include equal pay, and is likely to encompass basic working conditions, such as notice period and access to amenities.

Thursday 26th March 2009