Temporary Workers – Don’t Panic!

12 Sep 2011

If recent stories in the press are to believed, the demise of the temporary agency worker, or “temps”, is imminent.  Employer bodies are also warning that the introduction of the Agency Worker Regulations on 1 October 2011 will hamper the ability of businesses to create jobs.

The headline requirements of the Agency Worker Regulations causing this distress are that an agency worker should, after 12 weeks, receive equal treatment for basic contractual conditions; mainly pay and holiday pay.  The suggestion has been made that, as a result of this, businesses will simply stop using temps.


However, according to a Government impact study, 50% of all temporary assignments are under 12 weeks, so are not affected by the main requirements of the regulations; 23% of employers pay the temps the same as their directly employed staff and, in fact, 14% of employers pay their temps more than their directly employed staff.  Taking this in to account, it is arguably whether the Regulations are really such a disaster for business.


Businesses usually use temps for short term coverage of absences, for periods of high demand or in specialist tasks.  The benefits of temps are manifold: they can be brought in at short notice and released just as quickly, responsibility for them usually lies with the supplying agency, thus releasing resources from HR and, the worker’s required skill set can be pinpointed for the task in hand, rather than requiring significant training.


The requirement for these additional, flexible, staff will still be there following the introduction of the Regulations, so what will businesses do if they choose to abandon the use of temps? 


They could recruit the staff directly, but this will mean that the employees will have all the same rights as existing employees from day one, so does not really avoid the implications of the Regulations.  Alternatively, the employer could set up its own “staff bank”, but the cost and administration of this is likely to be excessive for all but the largest companies.


Ultimately, in our view, this is a storm in the tea cup and, with a little preparation, employers can continue to use temps to ensure that the flexible and properly skilled workforce that temporary worker agencies provide continues to be available as and when it is needed.


If you would like assistance in preparing for the introduction of the Agency Worker Regulations, do not hesitate to contact us.