The business secretary has fought to delay the introduction of the European Union agency workers directive until the latest possible date. The directive, which entitles temps to full employment rights, including equal pay, after 12 weeks in a workplace, will now not come in till October 2011. Mandelson's aim? To ease the burden of regulations that are costing business £3.5bn a year. Not a nice outlay when you've got a recession to deal with.
Mandy clearly knows an emotive issue when he sees one. The TUC has been typically supportive of the temps' cause, with head honcho Brendan Barber arguing that agency workers are even more in need of protection during a recession. ‘Vulnerable workers are always the first to suffer when times are hard,' he said.
The SME community may be more chipper. Many feared that bringing the law in early would discourage employers from taking on temps, often one of the more fail-safe ways of staying afloat when the economy turns bleak. More good news for the stretched: a planned right for workers to request ‘time to train', due to be implemented for employers with more than 250 staff from next April, will be deferred for smaller companies till April 2011.
So it seems like the government has made a small step towards winning over the business community. But it may be too late. A new poll of small businesses, conducted by insurer Premierline Direct, found that nearly half (48%) of small business owners intend to vote Tory in the next election. The Lib Dems came out in second, with 13% of the votes. Labour picked up just 9%. So perhaps Mandy's move is nothing more than a temporary fix.