Agency worker rules ‘doing more harm than good’

The bulk of the UK’s temporary workforce face seeing their job prospects deteriorate over the next 12 months, as a direct result of freshly introduced rules designed to protect them.

A survey shows that at least half of staffing agencies believe that some, or all, of their clients will respond to the Agency Workers Regulations by cutting temporary headcount in 2012.   

Explaining their reasoning, the Association of Recruitment Consultancies pointed out that, under AWR, employers must give temps ‘employee-style’ rights and conditions from week 12.

The arising cost is behind another finding from the association’s survey - namely that the majority of agencies expect their clients to cancel temp roles no later than the eleventh week.

“Rather than protecting agency workers, the regulations are actually undermining the job market for them,” ARC chairman, Adrian Marlowe, said of the findings, which appear at odds with a similar probe by another staffing group.

“This isn’t about not wanting agency workers to have more equal rights; it is about retaining flexibility [for]…agency workers and businesses alike, and these regulations are clearly not benefitting either.”

The burden that the rules are putting on employers, in the eyes of the agents, typically emerged as either costly software installation, to aid compliance, or escalating staff costs.

In fact, asked to evidence their claims, the agents said that some clients estimate that 10% of their working day will eventually be spent on AWR-related administration, such as tracking repeat short-term assignments.

“The regulations are actually…increasing the administrative workload,” Marlowe said. “At a time when employment has reached its highest level in decades, the government should be doing everything in its power to safeguard jobs for agency workers and support the businesses that hire them. These regulations are doing more harm than good.”

He urged the government to commit to an early review of the AWR, not least because on the jobs front alone, not even a quarter of the temporary staff agents could say hiring under the rules will increase, indicating “negligible” growth.

Thursday 17th Nov 2011