The Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) give similar rights to agency or temporary workers as exist for direct employees. Contractors operating through their own limited companies are exempt from the regulations provided they can show they are in business on their own account.
In one of the first cases involving AWR, the trade union, UNISON, successfully argued that they also require an employer or client to provide certain information about agency workers.
As a result of the case, more than 150 Barnet Council workers are set to receive compensation worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The Employment Tribunal in Watford ruled that the Council was in breach of changes to s.188 and regulation 13 of TUPE brought in by the AWR in respect of redundancies that took effect in March 2012. It said that the Council had failed to provide information to UNISON on the number of agency workers employed by Barnet Council.
UNISON asked for the information as it claimed it wanted to protect council workers as part of a wider consultation over redundancies and the transfer of staff.
The Tribunal made protective awards of 60 days’ and compensation of 40 and 50 days’ pay in respect of two transfers and a redundancy exercise that took place last year.
The union welcomed the decision, as it is one of the first cases brought under provisions introduced at the same time as the AWR October 2011. They require employers to provide information on the agency workers engaged during TUPE transfers and collective redundancy consultation.
The Judge in the case described Barnet’s refusal to provide information as “a relatively serious failure”. And UNISON said the decision, upholding the requirement to provide information on agency workers, has important ramifications for other unions, to help them negotiate more effectively and avoid redundancies.
Dave Prentis General Secretary of UNISON, said: “This landmark decision is an important step forward in protecting workers when they are under threat of redundancy or transfer. It must act as a warning to other councils that they must provide information on agency workers to unions or suffer the consequences.
“Across the country, councils are cutting and outsourcing services. Workers need to be protected from having their rights ridden over roughshod. This decision is recognition of the difficulties that unions face when employers withhold information that could and should be given.”
UNISON said their they had repeatedly warned the Council about their responsibilities to provide the agency data at a time when staff are at ‘risk of redundancy’ and outsourcing. They added that Barnet Council had become ‘increasingly reliant on consultants and chose to ignore attempts to resolve this matter locally‘.
Adrian Marlowe, MD of recruitment specialists, Lawspeed said: “This brings clearly into focus the fall-out that can arise if hirers do not comply with the AWR. This comes at a time when many agencies are reporting difficulties in obtaining accurate information on comparable pay rates and holidays.”
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2013