Agency workers to get equal treatment after 12 weeks

Agency workers will be entitled to the same treatment as permanent staff after 12 weeks in employment under a deal agreed between the Government, the unions and the CBI.

The three parties say they have tried to reach an agreement that would protect the rights of workers at the same time as maintaining flexibility for employers. Business Secretary John Hutton said: “It will give people a fair deal at work without putting their jobs at risk or cutting off a valuable route into employment."

A joint statement by the Government, the CBI and the TUC says that the equal treatment to which agency workers will be entitled after 12 weeks “will be defined to mean at least the basic working and employment conditions that would apply to the workers concerned if they had been recruited directly by that undertaking to occupy the same job.”

There will now be further consultations between the three parties on the implementation of the Directive. In particular they will be looking at “mechanisms for resolving disputes regarding the definition of equal treatment and compliance with the new rules that avoid undue delays for workers and unnecessary administrative burdens for business”.

They will also be looking at anti-avoidance measures with particular reference to such things as repeat contracts for the same worker.

The European Union is currently considering legislation on the position of agency workers and so the British Government will not be able to implement its own Agency Workers Directive until it has reached an agreement with its EU partners. It says it hopes to reach such an agreement by the autumn so it can introduce implementing legislation in the next parliamentary session.

The Government and the CBI believe the agreement may help prevent more extreme measures being introduced by the EU. The CBI Deputy Director, John Cridland, said: "There has been a major risk of damaging legislation coming from Brussels, and the CBI has judged that the Government’s proposals represent the least worst outcome available for British business.

“Critically, as well as enabling the European directive on agency work to be put to bed, this agreement should allow the retention of the working hours opt-out from the working time directive, which is equally vital to the future of the British economy."

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