It truly is consultation season! There are currently four major government consultations out, looking at a wide range of areas relating to work, from how you work out someone’s employment status to how we can better enforce employment rights, following the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. We have just responded to the first one, which focuses on agency work. This looks at the regulations governing our sector, how they are enforced, and how they could be updated to meets the needs of the modern labour market.
To help us draft our response we engaged hundreds of members through two dedicated webinars, a number of sectoral and regional meetings and through our Employment Policy Committee (EPC) – thank you to all those who fed in. Here is a quick summary of what we said to government:
Government highlights role of agency work
It was encouraging to read the government’s recognition of the value of agency work in the consultation. According to our latest Recruitment Industry Trends report (2016/17), our industry places 1.1 million agency workers on assignment on any given day, providing employers with a much valued flexible workforce and workers with a flexible job they can fit around other commitments.
Regulations need to keep pace
We agree with the government’s assessment that ‘any reforms that are made need to ensure that the sector continues to operate efficiently and provide a reliable and trustworthy service to hiring businesses and work seekers’. The recruitment industry has changed significantly since the Employment Agencies Act was first introduced in 1973 and the Conduction Regulations were introduced in 2003 with supply chains becoming increasingly long and complex, the rise of umbrella companies and other intermediaries, and the recent emergence of digital work platforms. It is time our industry’s regulations kept pace.
However, we have highlighted in our consultation response the amount of regulation our industry already has in comparison to other forms of flexible work such as the gig economy. What our sector needs is updated and reformed legislation and better more targeted and well-resourced enforcement of that legislation to ensure a level playing field for the industry.
Transparency recommendations welcome
We welcomed proposals for greater transparency for agency workers and the concept behind a ‘key facts’ document for agency workers explaining who they will be engaged by, how they will be engaged, any other fees or costs that will be deducted and what they relate to. However, we would urge the government to enhance existing obligations rather than duplicating paperwork, which would be burdensome on agencies and confusing for workers.
Call for umbrellas to be regulated by EAS
We strongly support an extension of the remit of the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate (EAS) to include other intermediaries, such as umbrella companies, that meet the definition of an employment business. We have long called for this, as it will help create a level playing field.
More evidence needed on Pay Between Assignment contracts
On, Pay Between Assignments contracts, we welcome this consultation as an opportunity to gather data on the use of these contracts and any examples of abuse. If the government do find significant evidence of abuse, they would welcome a further consultation to look at next steps. If they were minded to abolish these contracts we would urge them to undertake an impact assessment for employers, agencies and workers.
EAS shouldn’t enforce AWR – this is best left to the tribunal
We do not think the remit of EAS should be expanded to include the Agency Worker Regulations. This is best left to the Employment Tribunal who are able to make an independent assessment of points of interpretation of the legislation.
Call to action
We still have three more consultations to submit responses to on transparency, enforcement and employment status before 1 June. You can find out more information on these here. If you would like to feed into these consultations please email firstname.lastname@example.org