22/03/2002

CIPD criticises 'impractical' agency work directive

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has criticised the latest draft EU directive on agency workers as being "unnecessary and impractical".

The draft of the directive, which was published on Wednesday 20 March, reveals that Europe has seen a steady increase in the amount of temporary work over the past decade. Analysing the causes of the growth, the publication pinpointed four main factors: the increased need for flexibility in the workforce; the opportunity it offers individuals to gain access or return to the workplace; the need for temporary workers with specialised skills; and an increasingly flexible legislative framework.

The research also noted that temporary work has spread unevenly in the European Union, with around 80 per cent of temporary workers employed in the four Member States of the Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK.

National legislation also varies from Member State to Member State; in Germany the sector is regulated almost exclusively by legislation, while Denmark, Finland, Ireland and the United Kingdom have either no definitions of temporary agency work or a very limited specific regulation.

In the UK, the figures also show that the average weekly income of full-time agency workers is 68 per cent of the average weekly income for all employees, and agency workers take part in less vocational training.

The draft Directive proposes a general principle of non-discrimination of temporary workers, with the introduction of an additional set of rules that aims to improve their situation. However, the CIPD has described these proposals as imposing potentially damaging constraints on the UK labour market.

Diane Sinclair, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser, commented: "The draft directive will limit opportunities for temping in the UK. If organisations are forced to go through the bureaucratic process of comparing terms and conditions of temps with permanent staff, they are much less likely to use agency staff.

"The Commission's decision to make equal treatment applicable only after an agency worker has been with the same organisation for six weeks will do little to change employers' views of the draft directive. If implemented in the UK as it currently stands, the directive will damage employment prospects for those who can't find a permanent job or who do not want one.

She added: "It's difficult to see who will benefit significantly from the proposals."

(CL)

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