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Changes for agency workers and parents

Changes to the rights of agency workers in the UK could have implications for recruitment agencies as well as employers. The draft Agency Workers Directive was discussed at the European Employment Council in June 2008 and agreement was reached in principle.

The agreed revised wording of the Agency Workers Directive allows the UK to implement the agreement between the Government, the CBI and the TUC, which means that an agency worker is entitled to equal treatment after 12 weeks in a job.

Businesses using agency workers for more than 12 weeks will need to act with extra caution, as a raft of standard employment law obligations will apply. There will be less distinction between employees and an agency worker, with an assimilation of rights and benefits that will now apply to agency workers. At the very least, the basic working and employment conditions that would apply to the worker if they had been recruited directly by the employer to do the same job will apply but it excludes pension provisions.

Agencies will need to have clear arrangements in their contracts and policies relating to workers in contracts, particularly so when they will be of more than 12 weeks' duration.

It is difficult to predict the pace at which the changes may take place. The regulations are with the European Parliament for a second reading and may be in force before the end of the year. A more immediate example of equalising the rights of agency workers is the Fixed Term Employees Regulations 2008, which will give agency workers under fixed term contracts the right to statutory sick pay from 27 October 2008.

Wards Solicitors can help as these changes take place. Our employment team can review and amend your policies and contracts relating to agency workers.

Greater flexibility for parents

The Government has announced that it will extend the right to request flexible working to parents of children up to and including the age of 16 in April 2009.

The right to request flexible working is currently open to parents of children under six or parents of disabled children under 18 and (from 6 April 2007) to carers of adults. In 2007, Imelda Walsh, Human Resources Director at Sainsbury's, led an independent review to look at extending the right to request flexible working to parents of older children. In May 2008, the Government accepted her recommendations to extend the right to cover older children.

The extension is expected to benefit an estimated 4.5 million parents in England and Wales. As far as employers are concerned, if they refuse a request their main risk is not a claim under the flexible working regulations but one for discrimination.
Martin Keegan
01275 850470

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