Agencies hound IT contractors with 'rogue' emails deciding your opt-out future

IT contractors are facing tough new tactics from job agencies pressing their workers to opt-out from April rules safeguarding against rogue practices and underhand recruiting procedures.

Legislation under the 'Conduct for Employment Agencies,' has established more flexible working for temporary workers, better transfer to perm options and various payment guarantees - at a rising cost to employment agencies.

Contractors have told CUK that now suppliers are clawing back their cost by slashing pay rates for temporary workers and offering unreasonable contracts, often without notice to unsuitable placements.

Once contractor revealed he suffered a version of reverse marketing on his contract - where failing to respond on email to his agency meant he was immediately opted-out because he didn't reply in time.

"My agency sent me an email asking me to opt-out. In their opinion, I would be better off they said, but they wouldn't tell me exactly why or what the new changes meant. They did point me to the government website which has a copy of the original Act, but it was a pile of legal jumbo to me."

The source added that one colleague - also an IT contractor - was duped by the email request and considered outside the rules, before being told of the administrative nightmare if he wished to alter his work status and opt-in.

"They informed him that you are automatically opted-out of you didn't reply to the email saying you wanted to opt-in. If he wants to opt in he has to reply and also send proof of ID, like passport - but he was told this was 'unimaginable' as nobody had else has chosen to do so."

The Professional Contractors Group (PCG) have acknowledged the growing trend of unscrupulous methods targeting contractors, saying the "there is definitely a problem with agencies coercing contractors."

Reputable agencies and suppliers have welcomed the April 6 rules and the stance undertaken by the PCG in a clean-up effort on behalf of the industry.

Capita group, a leading supplier of public and private sector contracts, said the working rules have spurred them to introduce procedures for contractors, described by the Department of Trade and Industry as, "ahead of the game."

Verena Rabbetts, consultant at the company's Resourcing arm, told CUK: "Although we cannot legally influence contractors to opt either way, we can ensure we provide the information and guidance they need to make an informed choice.

"The standard of service we offer is the same-regardless of option."

Capita's policy will come as a relief to contractors already concerned they will be blacklisted by agencies should they refuse to comply or waiver their responsibilities unknowingly.

Reverse emailing is thought to be just one of a host of measures designed to sway opt-out decisions, helping less honest agencies cut cost.

Capita, which interacts with 33 million industry professionals, explained: "We are able to process applications slightly quicker if contractors opt-out, due to a reduced administrative burden. This can be an attractive factor in an increasing competitive market."

Legal specialist for contractors, Egos, has told CUK that overall, "it is difficult to see any sound commercial reason why a contractor providing services through an agency, would wish to opt out of the new regulations."

The draft rules, announced on April 6, were imposed to foster greater levels of confidence between professional contractors and their job agencies.

The government's employment minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, said at the time: "The vast majority of agencies are well run but we are ensuring they do not face unfair competition, from those who abuse their workers."

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