tucThe TUC called on the Government to give agency workers real protection from exploitation and genuine equal treatment on pay, holiday and hours, as it published its response to the draft Agency Worker Regulations consultation on Tuesday, 23 Dec 2009. The draft Regulations seek to implement the EU Temporary Agency Worker Directive into UK law.

Agency workers are particularly vulnerable during times of recession, says the TUC, and the new rights should be introduced as a matter of urgency. The TUC wants the Agency Worker Regulations to be strengthened to guarantee that every agency worker receives the same rights on pay, holiday and working time as directly employed staff doing the same work, following a 12-week qualifying period.

The TUC believes that the new Regulations must include more effective anti-avoidance measures to prevent unscrupulous employers and agencies avoiding the new rights by moving agency workers between jobs within the same workplace, or by rotating agency temps on short-term assignments between different employers.

The TUC response highlights how bosses from many sectors and professions could avoid giving agency temps the equal treatment rights, leaving them facing pay discrimination and with less paid holiday, even though they work on an on-going basis for the same employer. For example:

Agency temps working in a food processing plant could work for 11 weeks picking vegetables, and then be moved to work in the packing section in the warehouse for 11 weeks, before being moved back to field work; or,

Agency workers working in retail distribution could be regularly rotated to work for two different retail firms based on the same industrial site.

Legal loopholes in the Regulations should also be closed to ensure that rogue employers and agencies do not use bogus self-employment to avoid equal treatment rights, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘A TUC poll earlier this year revealed many agency workers have faced abuse and unfair treatment at work.

‘It showed that some rogue employers are using the lack of employment rights and insecurity of agency workers to treat agency temps badly – to pay them less, to give them less holiday pay, to get out of paying them redundancy or maternity pay, and to neglect their training and development.

‘Agency workers are even more in need of protection during a recession. Vulnerable workers are always the first to suffer when times are hard. Agency temps must have the right to genuine equal treatment on pay, including basic pay, bonuses, redundancy pay and maternity, paternity and adoption leave pay, and to equal treatment on holiday pay and the ability to take time off.

‘The new laws must provide real protection for the UK’s hundreds of thousands of agency workers, and any loopholes which would allow unscrupulous employers to avoid the law and to undercut reputable firms must be closed.

‘This includes measures to prevent the use of bogus self-employment arrangements to avoid new rights for agency workers.’

The TUC believes is also time to end the pay gap faced by agency workers in the UK. Agency temps should have the right to equal treatment not only on hourly pay rates and overtime payments, but also on bonuses, performance related pay, pay relating to maternity, paternity and adoption leave and redundancy pay, says the TUC.

Agency workers should also be entitled to the same access as directly employed staff to workplace facilities such as staff canteens, childcare facilities, transport services, staff toilets, sanitary facilities, and rest rooms from day one of any assignment, the TUC believes.