The trade union body, the TUC, has lodged a formal complaint against the UK Government for failing to implement the Agency Workers Directive properly and has called for the so-called Swedish Derogation - used by some agencies and umbrella companies - to be banned. (See Unions call for 'Swedish derogation' to be banned - Shout99, Sept 2013).
The AWR was brokered by European Governments and their social partners such as business groups like the CBI and trade union bodies, such as the TUC, after lengthy deals and negotiations. Now the TUC is objecting to what is seen by some as an 'opt-out' measure, called the Swedish derogation.
It gives similar rights to agency workers after a 12 week qualifying period as those given to employees. Freelancers who are 'in business on their own account' can opt out, as it was feared that the imposition on these rights would make freelancers less attractive to their clients.
Adrian Marlowe, chairman of the Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC) said: "The AWR came into being after an agreement was reached between the CBI and the TUC in May 2008. The deal required both sides of industry to work together in implementing these regulations, and ultimately agreement was reached in a number of notable different areas, for example the 12 week qualification period was agreed, and the terms of the so-called 'Swedish Derogation' were also accepted by all sides.
"Both of these areas are termed as 'derogations' under the Agency Workers Directive, which required the agreement of the 'social partners', namely the TUC and the CBI, to be effective. It is not now appropriate for the TUC as a consenting 'social partner' to complain to the EU to try to undo what is a legally binding arrangement."
ARC recalls that on 16th September 2009 the TUC by resolution welcomed the adoption of the regulations despite a call by its member union UNITE to oppose any derogation for "agency workers who have permanent contracts and who are paid between assignment, as this could exclude thousands of agency workers who would significantly lose out on pay and defeat the whole objective of the Directive of equal treatment".
Mr Marlowe said: "Agencies and end users have worked extraordinarily hard to comply with the Regulations, which are complex and administratively burdensome. Agency workers engaged under the Swedish Derogation now have full employment rights and entitlement to continued payment in between assignments. Agency workers also have in some cases more rights than regular employees."
Referring to the concession made by the CBI at the time to its argument that the qualification period should be much longer than 12 weeks, Mr Marlowe concluded: "If the TUC thinks its complaint is fair then no doubt it would accept a complaint from the CBI that the qualification period should be extended. This would stop the layoff of agency workers at the 12 week point, something that agency workers have suffered from to their detriment directly as a result of these regulations. The TUC cannot have its own cake and eat it."
If you wish to comment on this article, please log in and use the Reply button below. Registering is free and easy - see 'Join Shout99'.
Susie Hughes © Shout99 2013