Agency Workers Regulations to Go Ahead

Despite strong lobbying from the recruitment sector in particular to review their introduction, the Government is going ahead with plans to introduce the new Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) next October.

The Regulations mean that temporary workers will qualify for equal benefits as permanent staff, after they have been with an employer for 12 weeks.

In a written ministerial statement, Edward Davey, Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs, said: “The Regulations, implementing the European Agency Workers Directive, were made by the previous administration in January 2010 and are due to come into force in October 2011. The government is aware of the different points of view that have been expressed by various stakeholders about certain aspects of these regulations and has been considering the way forward.

“However, the Government’s ability to make changes to address such matters is constrained by the fact that the Regulations are based to a significant degree on the agreement brokered by the previous administration between the CBI and TUC. Due to this unique legal situation, any amendments proposed to the Regulations touching upon the subject matter of the CBI and TUC agreement, which did not have the agreement of those parties, would face the risk of being set aside in the Courts in the event of a legal challenge. Were that to happen, the effect could be to call into question the very foundation for the fundamentals of the implementing legislation, crucially including the 12-week qualifying period itself. 

“The Secretary of State and I have therefore discussed this matter on a number of occasions with both the CBI and the TUC, seeking agreement on changes that we consider would have improved the implementation regime, to the potential benefit of both employers and agency workers. Unfortunately it has not been possible to find a way forward that would be acceptable to both parties.   

“This outcome is clearly disappointing. However, the Government has taken the view that the absolute priority must be not to take any steps that could put at risk the 12-week qualifying period, which significantly mitigates the burdens the legislation will place on employers. The Government will not therefore be proceeding with any amendment of the Regulations themselves. We will instead now use the time that is still available before the Regulations’ entry into force to develop the best possible guidance to help employers comply with their new obligations.”

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