Business in last-ditch push to delay AWR

New rights for temporary agency workers coming into force this Saturday should be delayed, for being “the elephant in the room” every time the state talks of cutting regulatory cost on business.

Despite officials warning of no last-minute review, the British Chambers of Commerce also said that, for threatening to cost firms £1.5bn a year, the agency worker rules must be postponed until after October 1st.

Already businesses face £45m net new regulatory costs in this year’s second half, the chamber said, in addition to the EU-inspired Agency Workers Regulations, which falls outside of the UK government’s ‘one in one out’ rule on red tape.  

However in the past few weeks, evidence has emerged showing end-users “quickly beginning to understand their obligations” under the AWR, umbrella company Giant said yesterday.

Partly that’s a result of the education campaigns that staffing bodies have been driving – after end-user awareness about the rules was found to be wanting.

But it also reflects the fact that, while the pay and working conditions of employees will be awarded to temps from their twelfth week in the job, the end-user (or hirer) is responsible for providing equal treatment from day one.

Matthew Brown, managing director of Giant, says that in most instances, recruitment agencies intend to collect information from hirers on day one of an assignment, rather than waiting until the 12-week qualifying period.

“The questions they will ask the hirer are fairly limited,” he said. “It’s around salary, the number of holidays, and over time and bonuses in some cases.”

After 12 weeks in the same job, when temps who are not ‘genuinely’ self-employed receive the same basic employment and working conditions as employees, they have the right to equal basic pay, overtime, bonus and productivity-related commission.

Also after the 12-week qualifying period, end-users must be aware that the temporary agency worker has the right to the same holiday time and pay as a comparable permanent employee.

Underlining the associated price tag, Red Elephant HR, which runs training courses on implementing the AWR, has said that some businesses have vowed to reduce, or stop outright, their use of agency workers after Saturday.

Centrica appears to be a case in point: ahead of October 1st, the energy firm has cut its temporary agency workforce from 1,300 to a reported 670. The company is yet to respond to CUK’s requests for confirmation or comment.

Overall, it is estimated that up to 500,000 temp contracts could be at risk from the AWR but, since the estimate, a ‘business as normal’ approach is apparently taking shape - and will for prevail, at least for agencies.

Giant’s Mr Brown said: “The recruitment industry has had loads of legislation over the past 10 years. It is all painful and an additional admin layer. But 10 months later it is all part of the process and normal.”



Wednesday 28th Sep 2011