Gonzales Dorrego Rosendo, Head of EU Employment Law, who was involved with the draft proposals, said: "There is no official proposal on temp work, this was a draft document that was leaked to the press and no formal text on this issue actually exists.
"The Commission is currently reviewing some of the proposals that have been reported upon. The possibility that clients in the UK will need to ensure temporary workers are not on 'disguised employee' terms of engagement as a consequence of these proposals, as has been suggested, is not something we are even considering at this point in time. We don't want to be too precise on grounds of proportionality in terms of these workers at this stage."
Reports alleged the plans were to give temporary workers and contractors rights to the same pay, pensions, holiday cover, health insurance, interest free loans, share schemes and other benefits as long-term employees doing comparable jobs.
|"The possibility that clients in the UK will need to ensure temporary workers are not on 'disguised employee' terms of engagement as a consequence of these proposals, as has been suggested, is not something we are even considering at this point in time"|
|Gonzales Dorrego Rosendo, Head of EU Employment Law|
People who work through agencies are currently only legally entitled to a minimum wage and a holiday allowance.
Digby Jones, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, wrote a letter to EU Commissioners expressing his concerns over the proposed legislation. He argued that allowing agency temps to compare their employment conditions with permanent staff at the user-company would create a significant disincentive for firms to contract with agencies for work.
A spokesman for the CBI has since confirmed Mr Jones has not received a reply from the EU over his concerns and added that if the reported proposals go ahead unchanged it could "significantly damage the UK recruitment industry as clients simply won't want to use agency workers."
Reports of the draft proposals, largely based on speculation, developed to the extent that Alistair Campbell, the Prime Ministerís Official Secretary, issued a statement, saying: 'Our position was that we believed agency workers should be entitled to a fair deal, but that we would want to check very carefully any proposed Directive to make sure that it was compatible with UK practice and the need for flexibility. We also had our doubts that other member states would want to rush into pan-European legislation that might conflict with national regulations. We believed that agency work played a key role in maintaining labour market flexibility.
'We did not believe that agency workers were in exactly the same position as part-time and fixed staff inasmuch as they did not share a common employer. Any proposal, therefore, would have to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate that.'
Most representative groups for temps and contractors in the UK have provided statements about the leaked proposals.
A Professional Contractors Group spokesman said: "Our members are in business on their own account and want to be treated as such. They are not seeking benefits comparable with employees- either temporary or permanent. This is another indicator that they are not employees. However, the Government has created this artificial status known as a 'disguised employee' for tax purposes and the issue has become confused for many people. If this legislation is introduced, then clients should be aware that contractors are genuine businesses and not temporary workers and should ensure that the contractors on which they are engaged are representative of the genuine business to business relationship."
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said: "Agency workers allow employers to rapidly meet changes in business demands and staffing crises. The EU proposals are wholly inappropriate for the UK. They will restrict flexibility without significant benefit to anybody"
Tim Nicholson, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), said: "REC has been involved in discussions about the intended Agency Workers Directive for months. We have met with the DTI, CBI and European Commission who have the collective responsibility of 'adopting' the directive before it enters the public domain.
Media speculation on a version of the internal Commission draft document could distract from the main issues; there are indications that opinion in Brussels is shifting, and the final outcome could be very different to the picture painted in these 'leaked' versions of the Directive. Our intensive effort, supported by Government and employers organisers, is beginning to bear fruit, and it is not yet the time for a public outcry against this directive.
The directive has to strike a balance between necessary regulation to protect vulnerable workers, and promoting a valuable source of skilled, flexible labour and job opportunities. Although some of the ideas heard so far from Brussels have not encouraged us to believe that the importance of getting this balance right has thus far been understood, we have some hopes that this is now taking a better direction."
|"If past performance is anything to go by, i.e: the Working Time Directive, IR35 and the Agency regulations, which have all led to huge confusion and uncertainty, the prospect of further ill-conceived legislative will cause a further lack of clarity for us"|
|Howard Butterfield, MD of Plexian and ATSCo member|
The Trades' Union Congress was alone in welcoming the proposals. It said: "Temporary workers in the UK not only face substantial job insecurity but they also often receive far less favourable treatment than those they work alongside."
"Lack of access to training results in lower skills while lower pay damages the motivation and inevitably leads to lower productivity."
Agencies themselves have also voiced their concerns.
Howard Butterfield, Managing Director of Plexian and member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Technological Staffing Companies, said: "If past performance is anything to go by it is certainly possible that in the same way the Working Time Directive, IR35 and the Agency regulations have led to huge confusion and uncertainty, the prospect of further ill-conceived or badly delivered legislative change will cause a further lack of clarity. As always the onus will be on the business community as a whole who will have to decipher both the spirit and the letter of the changes at a time when quite frankly we have more than enough to contend with.
"I really believe that if this Government is, as they have explicitly declared on many occasions, committed to a flexible workforce- an alternative for those who choose to take more control over the type of work they do and the times they do it- then we need a clear framework for those individuals to deliver those skills.
"The consequences of not having that clear framework for the million people currently working as temps and contractors in the UK and the organisations that help them will be extremely damaging."
Richard Powell, Shout99