Workplace rights: Temporary setback

Employment agency workers can have a hard time claiming unfair dismissal or redundancy pay, largely on account of the triangular relationship between the agency, the individual and the client company that is the end-user of his or her services.

by Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors -e-mail:
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The approach of the courts to whether such workers qualify as 'employees', and if so which organisation employs them, has been wildly inconsistent over the years. A proposed EU directive does not address the issue of temps' employment status - and hence dismissal and redundancy rights - but it would give them the same basic conditions and pay as a comparable worker in the client's direct workforce after six weeks. The plan is hugely controversial. The CBI claims it would wreck the UK's flexible labour market, jeopardising 250,000 UK jobs, whereas trade unions have long campaigned against 'two-tier' workers performing the same role on different terms and conditions. No agreement was reached on the proposal at a meeting of European employment ministers in Brussels last December, but it is certain to return to the negotiating table. A Private Member's Bill requiring equal treatment for agency workers has, meanwhile, been introduced in Parliament with a view to bypassing the EU legislative process.

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