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Mixed verdict on Agency Workers Regulations one year on

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Today is the first anniversary of the introduction of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR), aimed at improving employment terms and conditions for agency workers in the UK.

Even one year on, however, many organisations continue to struggle with the practical effects or to understand how certain provisions are to be interpreted, claims international law firm, Eversheds. It also states a review by Government, planned for next year, is keenly awaited to provide much-needed clarification.

Senior associate at Eversheds, Richard Sheldon, said: "There is little doubt that the AWR, introduced in the UK one year ago, have achieved their goal in a number of respects, improving the pay and conditions for many agency workers and allowing them access to better pay and to staff facilities, such as a canteen or childcare facilities.

"But what is also emerging is a picture of considerable misunderstanding and/or misinterpretation of the regulations, often due to the way in which the regulations themselves are drafted."

He went on to say: "While our experience is that some hirers were ahead of the game and took steps to prepare for the regulations early on, many organisations have yet to implement them properly or frequently because they are unclear as to what is required."

UK independent employer's organisation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), director of employment and skills, Neil Carberry, said: " Agency jobs are a crucial way into employment both for people looking for flexible work, and for those seeking experience and a way into the workforce."

He added: "But one year on from the introduction of the regulations, the business verdict is that they are a drag on job creation in this vital sector."

Research by the CBI has shown that 57% of firms that use temps have reduced their use as a result of the regulations. Only 3% have increased their use, while 8% have stopped using temps altogether. The same survey found that 62% of agencies reported a negative experience of the regulations.

Eversheds said there is a lot at stake and can see why some are holding back if there is room for doubt. Sheldon said: "Pay differential of just £1 per hour for 100 agency workers would generate an additional cost of over £200,000 or more per year."

The CBI claims the Government still has a lot to do: "We cannot afford to be complacent, given that we would expect increased demand for agency temps in uncertain economic times, not a drop. The Government must not shy away from a review of all aspects of the regulations that are left to the UK to decide."

The research from the CBI is taken from the CBI/Harvey Nash employment survey, July 2012, facing the future.