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Agency Workers Directive needs to clarify what is meant by equal treatment, says CIPD

The CIPD has called for more clarity around the Agency Workers Directive, which is designed to bring equal rights to agency and temporary staff in the workplace.

The consultation on the controversial directive closed today and the CIPD has pointed out although the directive is concerned with ‘equal treatment' in relation to working and employment conditions, it fails to define what ‘equal treatment' is.

Mike Emmott, CIPD adviser, said: "The directive is unclear about what the benchmark for comparison [between agency workers and employed staff] should be. The CIPD believes pay comparisons for agency temps should be based on internal pay scales applying to a comparable worker within the organisation doing broadly similar work. This would remove the need to look for evidence of market rates, and simplify consideration of what a hypothetical permanent worker would have been paid - which could otherwise be a recipe for confusion and uncertainty. It will also reduce the burden on tribunals in terms of both the number and duration of hearings."  

But the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has said the directive should not be put into effect in the UK until the last possible moment to ensure employers are clear about what equal treatment actually means. It advises there should not be any attempts to invent comparators to decide equal treatment, and equality should stretch as far as pay, but not include complex bonus structures.

Kevin Green, chief executive at the REC said: "There are more than a million temporary and contract workers out on assignment each week and it is thanks to these flexible working options that the UK jobs market is starting to show signs of life. There will be intense trade union pressure to gold plate the new regulations but the Government must be brave and avoid the kind of cost, bureaucracy and uncertainty that would have the perverse effect of limiting job opportunities."
He added: "The feedback from recruiters confirms that the EU directive could add over 20% cost to the provision of agency workers through added bureaucracy and complexity. Recruiters are also concerned about the huge practical issues linked to establishing equal treatment in the UK. The Government must look beyond the political rhetoric and the misinformed notions that temporary workers are systematically exploited and must adopt a pragmatic approach that serve the interests of UK jobs and competitiveness.
"The reality is that there is already fair pay for the vast majority of agency workers in this country; what we need is fair play for the thousands of agencies that will have to make the regulations work on the ground."