October 2009


Government to speed up implementation of new laws giving agency workers more rights

Gordon Brown at the TUC in LiverpoolDuring his address to the TUC in Liverpool the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced that the Government intended to fully implement the European Agency Workers Directive (AWD) before the next general election.

Many business organisations, fearful of the enormous cost implications, had been pressing the Government to delay implementation until the last possible moment, towards the end of 2011. However the Prime Minister said that "the fight for fairness must include agency workers" and that the AWD would be incorporated into British law "in the next few months".

David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce has voiced the concern of his members directly to Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary. He said;

“With the economic downturn, it is even more important that implementation of this Directive is done in a way that does not discourage the use of the flexible workers that are so important to economic growth returning to the UK.

“1 in 4 businesses in the UK use agency workers, rising to 1 in 2 for the largest companies so implementation of the Directive will clearly have a big financial impact. It is imperative that implementation is delayed until the last possible common commencement date, October 2011. Implementing earlier risks crippling the agency sector, hampering job creation, and stifling economic growth."

The Association of Recruitment Consultancies have warned that the full cost of implementation could exceed £2 billion and would result in greater unemployment.

There are estimated to be more than 1.3 million agency workers in the UK and many rights have already been conferred by the Government, including the National Minimum Wage, Working Time Regulations, holiday pay and Statutory Sickness and Maternity Pay.

The provisions of the Directive, as agreed by the TUC and the CBI, are intended to establish the principle of equal rights on basic working and employment conditions.

The main objectives will be to ensure equal treatment in terms of pay and holiday entitlement, but not occupational social security schemes like pensions.

The rights will be subject to a 12 week qualifying period and will not include an extension of the right to redundancy pay, dismissal notice, flexible working or a self standing right to claim unfair dismissal.

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