By Claire West, Editor, Fresh Business Thinking

On the 1st of October 2011, the Agency Workers Regulation (AWR) will come into force across the UK.

Under the new regulations temporary agency workers will — after 12 weeks of working on an assignment - be eligible for equal treatment and have the right to the same basic working and employment conditions as if they had been recruited directly by the hiring company.

Equal treatment applies to various terms and conditions including those relating to pay, working hours, overtime, holidays, rest periods, access to vacancies and to other facilities it does not apply to other areas such as company pension schemes, company sick pay, or redundancy.

Carmen Watson, managing director of Pertemps Recruitment highlighted the implications for both business and HR sectors, saying that, “In what is an already fragile economy where businesses are doing everything possible to maximise profits and cut costs, failure to prepare could add additional costs to their business and undermine their credibility as good employers.

The flexible labour market in the UK is an essential resource for many UK companies of all sizes and to the UK economy as a whole. Whilst the introduction of the AWR brings challenges to both employers and agencies, it also offers exciting opportunities for the recruitment industry. In particular for those agencies such as Pertemps who are prepared and working in partnership with their clients to ensure compliance and therefore protect their company’s brand and reputation.

As the AWR is not as straight forward as just counting 12 calendar weeks of work, companies should look to engage with an agency supplier who has the expertise, resource and technology solutions to provide the monitoring and tracking of flexible workers and their assignments so as to highlight potential issues before they arise."

Watson noted that agency workers too should take the time to familiarise themselves with the fine print in legislation and how it will affect them as for example, “a break between an assignment of more than 6 weeks will reset the qualification ‘clock’.”

“The bottom line is that irrespective of attitudes towards it, the legislation is almost here and we need to embrace it. What’s crucial is to make businesses aware of how these changes may affect them and discuss the range of initiatives that should be taken. These will range from identifying high risk terms and conditions to carrying out systemic reviews of temporary contracts against those of permanent staff.”

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