It would be ‘reckless’ for the region’s businesses to be unprepared for major changes in the way they use agency staff, a Midland employment lawyer has warned.
With new regulations covering the rights of agency workers coming into force on 1st October, Sally Morris, who heads up the employment team at law firm MFG Solicitors, has warned the region’s business community to prepare themselves or face an ‘explosive’ raft of consequences.
In a strong message to the region’s firms, Ms Morris said that businesses failing to give agency staff the same terms and conditions as their employees after the 1st October could be heavily fined under the government’s new anti-avoidance measures whilst some could even be forced to compensate agency workers.
She said: “It is only weeks until the new agency workers regulations are implemented so it would be reckless for firms not to begin their final preparations. The region’s manufacturing and service sectors rely mostly on short term agency support, so for them, it is imperative they understand the details and review their strategies on just when agency staff are required.
“The establishment of the new law is a milestone for lobbyists who have fiercely campaigned for equal rights. They give agency staff, who have completed 12 weeks in their role, rights to identical employment conditions such as annual leave and overtime. The rules are complex and rely heavily on the continuity of the worker’s role which can be affected by long-term sickness, unplanned breaks or even a small alteration in the job specification. It is a closely-governed law that will change the landscape of rights available to agency workers and could see many firms being penalised.
“Those are only a few of the thorny areas so for many firms and their HR teams, the solution is to take a pro-active stance, familiarise themselves with the regulations and if necessary, seek advice to steer them through what could be an explosive employment minefield.”
Ms Morris’s comments follow recent figures released by recruitment company Randstad which showed that 37% of British firms were completely unfamiliar with the new laws.
After the qualifying period of 12 weeks, agency workers are entitled to equal treatment as if they had been hired directly by the employer in respect of:
- Annual leave
- Pay, overtime and bonuses
- Rest periods
- Working hours
- Pregnant workers will now be allowed to take paid time off for antenatal appointments
Guidance notes on the new regulations, launched by Employment Relations Minister Ed Davey, are available from the Department for Innovation, Business and Skills website viawww.bis.gov.uk.