Bosses warned act now over new 'temp' worker law
Released 26 September 2011
Workplace relations expert Acas is warning employers that time is running out to get to grips with the biggest-ever shake-up of rights for temp workers.
With less than a week to go until the changes come into effect on October 1, Acas is also alerting bosses to the fact they could face a fine up to £5,000 from an Employment Tribunal if they break the new law. The fine would be multiplied by each temp they wronged.
The shake-up gives temps the same basic rights on pay, working conditions and holidays as employees. Temps rely on recruitment agencies to recommend them to employers, so the new law affects them, too. Recruitment agencies estimate there are around 1.4 million temps in the UK, four per cent of the nation's workforce.
To steer employers and agencies through the major change Acas has guidance at www.acas.org.uk/agencyworkers and is holding courses throughout Britain.
An important feature of the law, called the Agency Workers Regulations, is that it only comes into play after a temp has been used by an employer in the same role for 12 weeks.
A recent study for the job agencies' trade body, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, revealed that nationally only one in ten employers was prepared for the law.
John Taylor, Acas Chief Executive, warned: "Businesses really need to make sure that they have a handle on these changes. It's not something to think about down the line and get it wrong, as it can be costly to your business.
"Some employers may try to get round the regulations by hiring and rehiring temps on a succession of shorter periods. But they need to be careful of the many provisos within the new law. We would always urge employers to take a fair approach as the basis for any workplace relations."
More details on the new law are available at www.acas.org.uk/agencyworkers. It includes an overview, with a Q&A, of the regulations, and links to the full official guidance from the Government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and details of nationwide Acas courses telling employers, recruitment agencies and temps what they need to know in-depth.
The Acas Model Workplace www.acas.org.uk/modelworkplace provides guidance on recruitment, selection and induction.
Notes for editors
- After 12 weeks in the same job, an agency worker will be entitled to the same basic working and employment conditions as an employee recruited directly by the employer to do the same work.
- These conditions include the same basic hourly pay rate, overtime, shift allowances, unsocial hours' premiums, payments for difficult or dangerous duties, lunch vouchers, bonuses for the quality and quantity of work, rest breaks and annual leave allowance.
- While the main benefits apply only after 12 weeks' employment, there are some benefits which agency workers will be entitled to from day one of a job. They can use existing collective facilities such as a crèche and childcare, the canteen and transport, but access to these can be refused if the employer has 'objective grounds' which fall within the regulations.
- From day one, employers must also ensure that agency workers are made aware of vacancies that arise in the business.
- However, company offers such as subsidised gym membership, season ticket loans and childcare vouchers are outside the regulations.
- Agency workers will still not have rights to claim unfair dismissal, redundancy pay or maternity leave, or be entitled to occupational sick pay, company pension schemes, financial participation schemes and bonus payments based on organisational or company performance. This is because these are considered a reflection of the long-term relationship between an employee and employer.
- Employers will have to give information to workplace representatives on the use of agency workers including the total number of agency workers hired by the organisation, in what areas of the business and spelling out the types of work.
- The regulations apply to all temporary agency workers. PAYE workers employed via an umbrella company can also fall within the new law, as can service contract workers managed by the user of the service. The regulations do not apply to the self-employed.
- It will be largely the responsibility of the recruitment agency to ensure that its worker has parity on pay and conditions with employees at the company where they have been hired.
- Recruitment consultant Randstad, in its recent Shifting Sands report, says agency workers make up four percent of the UK workforce.
- John Taylor, Acas Chief Executive is available for interview.
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