ARC welcomes PM’s comments on agency worker rights

In response to the Prime Minister’s indication that a review should be on the basis of how the existing laws affect ease of employment, Adrian Marlowe, Chairman of the ARC said “we agree that the issue should be looked at in the round as well as in respect of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR). There is a clear distinction between agency work and regular employment. The former reflects the concept of short term deployment of labour and allows for the flexibility which has helped to provide UK hirers with a useful strategic tool for years. The distinction must not be blurred and the rules must be appropriate to enable agency work to function properly if jobs are not to be lost.”

The ARC opposes the one rule for all approach that the previous administration advocated and the criticism from some quarters now reported against Mr. Cameron’s views. Adrian commented “for example, the idea that an agency worker earning £100,000 per annum is poor and “vulnerable” and required to be protected is simply crazy, yet the AWR apply just as much to that agency worker as any other on a much lower income. Also, across the board there are problems with the AWR that interfere with the concept of flexible agency work on a practical level and which have nothing to do with the overriding requirement of fairness and appropriate equal treatment for agency workers. Any assumption that a review of the regulations, or any other agency related regulations, would automatically mean that agency workers will be prejudiced would not be correct. What would prejudice agency workers is if the availability of work becomes limited because the rules do not work efficiently and if flexibility becomes unnecessarily restricted.”

The ARC has for months called for the AWR to be reviewed on a practical rather than political basis. It has also argued that there should be a longer qualification period to obtain the equal treatment rights for the higher paid, but the ARC understands that this is not acceptable to the unions. Without union agreement a two tier arrangement could not work. Adrian concluded “it is perfectly possible for those agency workers who have been or are likely to be mistreated, as set out by the unions, to be set aside from the vast majority who are not. Those most likely to be taken advantage of can be protected more. The idea that only one rule is permitted with extra and over complicated rights for everyone, and that a more flexible approach is therefore to be condemned, must surely go against common sense.”

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Business waiting for Govt to grasp the AWR nettle