Agency conduct rules may be scrapped

A review of the agency Conduct Regulations could see the 2003 framework abandoned outright, when it is carried out in the spring of next year.

Reflecting on confirmation of the review last week, a recruitment body said the business department referred to the ‘agency regs’ possibly being recommended for removal.

Speaking at the time, the Association of Recruitment Consultancies acknowledged that Ed Davey also pointed out that the rules could be merged with other regulations, or simplified in isolation.

Whichever outcome is reached, all three appear to be in line with the government’s objective of “scrapping unnecessary rules and making the remaining ones more comprehensible to businesses”.

So said Vince Cable last week, when he clarified that the recruitment sector as a whole is heading for a regulatory review, as announced in the Autumn Statement.

“We start with the proposition that flexible labour markets are an essential component of a successful economy”, the business secretary said.

“It’s essential they function in a way that employers have the confidence to take on new workers, create new jobs, so people out of work can get that first foot in the labour market.

“We want to safeguard workers’ rights, while deregulating to reduce the onerous and unnecessary demands on businesses.”

However, while doing away with the agency conduct rules “may on the face of it appear attractive and headline-grabbing,” according to the ARC, it hopes there is a pause for thought first.

“In our experience agencies - broadly-speaking - do not object to many of the rules, some of which marry up with common sense and good business practice,” ARC policy advisor Ben Grover said.

“The industry does need some regulation to retain its credibility and reputation and we should be very careful not to upset a regime that largely appears to work across the board.”

Those concerns aside, the association embraced the review, saying it was a welcome opportunity for an open debate about regulation and its impact on agents, clients and hiring overall.

Still, Mr Grover cautioned: “If the aim is that cost to recruiters should be reduced, the value of that reduction should be balanced against the cost of having once again to change internal administration processes and contract terms, after only recently having made changes due to the Agency Workers Regulations.

“Most recruiters simply want to get on with their business, so any change would need to be worthwhile.”

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