Temporary Workforce Regulations Evolve in the UK

With Q1 already over, now seems an appropriate time to stop and reflect what 2014 has already brought us. In doing so one theme stands out yet again – the changing regulatory landscape.

Whilst the Agency Worker Regulations (AWR) are now well over two years old, they have become a hot topic this year due to a couple of different events. Firstly, in January the leader of Labour Party Ed Miliband has committed himself, in the event that Labour wins the next election, to abolishing one of the opt-outs (or loopholes depending on your perspective) from AWR called the Swedish Derogation. Under this, the need for temporary workers to be paid the same as their permanent equivalent is removed as long as they are paid between assignments. Initially perhaps this would seem a surprising choice for a national political leader to focus on but shortly afterwards one of the leading unions submitted a formal complaints about a group of workers at BT who receive 50% less pay under this arrangement highlighting the potential political gain. Secondly, one of the first cases to be brought under the AWR legislation threw up an interesting ruling. The Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled that AWR did not apply to temporary workers who were engaged on an indefinite contract. At first glance, this ruling would seem to undermine one of the key principles of AWR but as yet nothing has really changed. This is likely the result of the industry wanting to wait and see whether this was a one-off ruling but it’s also a reflection that the majority of temporary staff are not on indefinite contracts. Whilst I struggle to see AWR being a hot-topic during an election, I think that the highlighting of the Swedish Derogation and the case law mean that AWR will continue to be a subject of political attention in the months to come. All of this goes to show that the regulatory landscape never stands still and that having immediately visibility into tenure, contract details and headcount through a VMS tool are key requirements for anybody involved in managing temporary workforces today.