Brainfood: Workplace Rights - A temporary fix

The growth of temporary agency work in recent years has been exponential. Following a 250% increase between 1992 and 2001, the UK now employs more than half of all temps working in Europe. Not before time, a major overhaul of the law regulating the private recruitment industry came into force last month. This was designed to stamp out shady practices, protect workers from exploitation and make it easier for them to move from temporary to permanent work. But, unfortunately, the regulations do little to clarify where agency staff stand in relation to employment rights such as unfair dismissal, redundancy pay and maternity leave. Are temps employed by the agency that supplies them or the company that hires their services? This issue has been plagued by uncertainty for years. The new rules require agencies to enter into a contract with temps on their books, but this does not necessarily have to be one of employment. Meanwhile, recent appeal court decisions have it made clear that even where a worker has a direct contractual relationship with the agency, an implied employment contract can still sometimes arise with the hiring company. Clear as mud, eh? And all in all, a bit of a missed opportunity. - Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin solicitors, e-mail:

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

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