By Christian Berenger, Business Development Director Auto Time Solutions

The waiting is almost over. The new Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) is just a day away.

In the coming days all companies that employ temporary staff will be expected to comply with the new legislation.

Most firms have prepared months in advance for the arrival of AWR by reviewing existing workforce practices and optimising their business efficiencies wherever possible. Yet, despite it being the biggest piece of legislation to ever hit the recruitment industry, many still remain unprepared and are totally unaware of the scale of administration that compliance will require.

The biggest challenge facing businesses under AWR is undoubtedly determining the 12 week qualifying period. On the face of it, this seems straightforward. But in practice calculating the qualifying period isn’t as simple as that.

There are a number of circumstances that reset or pause the ‘qualifying clock’ and these will put HR departments under increasing pressure to get it right. For example the clock is paused for absences relating sickness, maternity leave, holidays and jury service. However, if a worker begins a new role at the same employer or takes a six week break between assignments the clock is reset to zero.

For companies that rely heavily on temporary workers the new regulations are likely to have a direct impact on administration time, especially when you consider that many may already face significant challenges in managing their workforce, such as part-time hours, flexible working and irregular shift patterns.

Despite these challenges recruitment agencies and employers can gain comfort from the fact that the latest time and attendance systems can help to ease the strain in adapting quickly to the new legislation.

Time and attendance solutions are well-known for streamlining routine processes such as timesheet calculations and the payroll process but today’s systems are capable of far more complex functions and can assist firms in their compliance to new Agency Workers Regulations. Recent technological developments mean they can now support managers managing complex shift patterns and issues such as staff absence, breaks and overtime.

This has been made possible by the emergence of GPRS technology which has allowed data-capture devices, such as biometric handscan terminals, to be integrated with web-based time and attendance software so that businesses can verify the attendance and movement of all workers, including those on remote locations.

Employee clocking data can be immediately transferred to a secure web–portal from any location, from which managers are able to confirm the attendance of their workforce and agency staff at the touch of a button. Should a worker fail to turn up for work within a designated time period, managers are automatically sent an SMS or email alert so they can pro-actively cover absences.

By storing each individual’s clocking data the latest time and attendance systems are enable to highlight when temporary staff are approaching the end of a 12 week assignment period under AWR. Having historical attendance data on record allows managers to create an analysis of temporary workforce costs being undertaken, project future costs beyond the threshold and prevent any unknown violation of the new regulations by applying the correct pay and bonus entitlements at the correct juncture after the 12-week qualifying period.

Furthermore, most time and attendance systems offer comprehensive scheduling features which can be used by managers to plan future shift patterns according to projected workloads and jobs. This removes the likelihood of overstaffing and boosts overall productivity because managers can make optimum use of their resources by ensuring that the right person is scheduled to perform the right tasks. Moreover, managers have information at their disposal from which they can calculate future job costs and assess more accurately whether they need to hire additional staff or not.

It won’t be until after 24 December this year (12 weeks after the regulations come into force) that the first qualifying period is complete and employees will be entitled to the same equal rights and benefits as permanent staff under AWR. However, the administrative challenges are immediate and shouldn’t be underestimated.

Many companies will no doubt look to their recruitment providers to ensure compliance to AWR but with severe penalties set to be handed out for non-compliance (up to £5000 in an employment tribunal), not to mention the reputational damage, it is vital that employers respond by putting systems in place that can track their temporary workers.

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