Temporary employees will be given increased rights after the European Parliament passed the The European Directive on Agency Workers.
Employers will have to treat agency workers the same as permanent staff after completing 12 weeks on the job, meaning they will receive equal pay and working conditions. Agency workers, however, will still be excluded from other benefits, including sick pay and pensions.
EU member states have three years to adopt the directive, which the UK has accepted on the condition it could opt out of the Working Time Directive. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said it is crucial that the UK’s opt-out is retained, especially in light of the uncertain economic climate, which puts employers’ budgets under even more pressure.
Katja Hall, the CBI’s director of employment policy, said: “This directive will not be welcomed by employers, but it is less damaging than previous proposals as key flexibilities that underpin UK competitiveness have been protected.
“More than half of agency assignments last less than 12 weeks and will be unaffected. And while pay is included, occupational benefits that recognise the long-term relationship permanent staff have with an employer, like sick pay and pensions, are rightly excluded.
“The Agency Work and Working Time Directives were linked as a package at the European Council meeting in June. While agency work has been put to bed at a European level today, it is now imperative that the UK’s working time opt-out is retained, especially when the economy is slowing and businesses are facing an uphill struggle.”
Julie Quinn, employment partner at law firm Nabarro, said:“The deal done by member states at the European Council last June was that, provided the UK accepted The Agency Workers Directive, the UK could retain its 48 hour opt out to The Working Time Directive. The Agency Workers Directive was adopted today – however, it appears that a number of MEPs are threatening to back out of the compromise reached with the UK.
“So what will happen as regards agency staff? The short answer is nothing quickly, as member states have three years to adopt the directive. There certainly will not be any movement in the UK until the revised Working Time Directive is debated next month.”