A new equality law for agency workers – but will it help?

Year Published: 2015

Agency Workers Regulations have been held up by some as the most significant change to employment law in a decade.

The legislation, which came into force on October 1st this year, means that after just 12 weeks, agency workers can expect the same rights on key issues such as pay and holidays as permanent staff.

While the change has been mostly greeted with enthusiasm from the UK’s agency and temporary workers, considerable concern has been voiced about the negative impact the new legislation could have.

Commenting on the changes employment law partner at SAS Daniels, said: “While this may sound like a cause for celebration, there could be an ironic sting in the tail with an inadvertent cost to the workers the legislation is attempting to support.

“It’s likely, for example, that we’ll see employers trying to avoid agency workers from accruing the 12 weeks necessary to qualify for equal terms leading to shorter contracts and less certainty for the UK’s temporary work force. Some employers may even move away from the use of agency workers altogether.

“One tactic may be to recruit employees directly to avoid using agency workers, but on less generous terms than other permanent staff.  The Equal Pay Act legislates against discrimination but it doesn’t stop employers from paying people different wages for the same role. This approach is not without its risks, not least because the creation of a two-tier workforce could have a seriously detrimental impact on employee relations.

“What is certain is that in a tough economic climate, when businesses need all the flexibility they can get, these new regulations represent a significant upheaval and administrative burden.”

For further information please contact our Employment team on 0844 391 5873.

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