'Well-paid IT contractors are not vulnerable'

Temporary staff earning three times more than the minimum wage should be exempt from an incoming law that will give all non-permanent workers the same pay and conditions as employees.

If policymakers agree, the Agency Workers Directive would be enshrined without applying to umbrella or personal company workers who are paid £17.40 an hour, via an agent.

Conversely, not excluding such temps from the law, which will entitle them to "equal treatment" to employees, would hike the cost of hiring them, warned recruitment body APSCo.

Given that end-users must offer them the same perks and protections as employees from week 12 in the job, the employment prospects of such staff, like IT contractors, will be "harmed."

Yet APSCo said the government has already indicated that an income threshold may be an "appealing" way to ensure the law only helps the vulnerable staff it was designed for.

Moreover the feedback, from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, says the threshold should be a multiple of the minimum wage, currently £5.73 for the majority.

"We feel that three times the national minimum wage is about the right income level for the exclusion," said Anne Swain, chief executive of APSCo, whose member firms include IT recruiters.

"It would mean that about 90% of workers placed by APSCo members are outside the scope of the legislation. This would be a workable solution which would be easy to understand and enforce."

Ms Swain added: "The kind of business professionals placed by APSCo members are highly-skilled, highly-paid individuals who cannot be considered vulnerable workers.

"Their inclusion in this legislation would significantly add to the costs to end-users of using these workers, thereby damaging their employment prospects."

The group's idea is likely to draw support from the CBI, the employers' organisation, and the PCG, the contractor trade body, as both have said professional temps should be excluded from the AWD.

Asked about the UK's implementation of the directive, a spokesman for the Professional Contractors Group offered some reassurance to freelancers using recruiters.

"We do not believe that our members will be in scope of this directive and therefore we do not feel they have anything to worry about," said PCG public affairs head Simon McVicker.

Yet the group also sounded alert to the fact that the actual implications of the directive for all UK workers will not be certain until the government implements them, by 2011 at the latest.

He added: "Be in no doubt, our prime task is to ensure that our members remain out of scope of the AWD."

Tuesday 23rd Jun 2009
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