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about 9 years ago by James Bell

The Tide is High for AWR

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There are many issues that the Agency Workers Regulations will present. The lack of BIS guidance notes to provide more detail of how AWR really works in practice has not helped. Every time we run a training seminar for clients yet another different, real-life scenario is highlighted. 

We spend a significant amount of time preparing responses to these based on our interpretation of the law. As much as we appreciate the value this offers clients, it’s not the business we’re in. BIS’s role, as far as we’re concerned, is to ensure that the sector is fully prepared, and as such, able to respond to new legislation without putting an important industry at risk. 

This leads nicely to the red tape. It might not technically be considered ballast, but the bureaucracy that comes with AWR has the same potential to drown the industry. A key question posed at Meridian’s round table event held in London’s Pall Mall at the end of last year came from the REC’s Kevin Green: “How will the Agency Workers Regulations impact sectors where repeat short assignments are widespread?” 

We have some of our own: When it comes to temps’ and status changes and they are able to access overtime, what’s the Agency Workers Regulations stance on time in lieu as opposed to monetary compensation? Or, when it comes to the education sector, how will ‘significantly different duties’ be determined and how will the LEAs respond? 

Although mostly rhetorical and by no means insurmountable for an industry that historically has had to hold fast in the face of Government legislation, these questions are adding to the pile of unknowns around the Agency Workers Regulations. Wading through them not only slows us down, but for those less experienced, and certainly from a client’s perspective, they might put them off the idea of the temping industry as a whole. 

Next are the tariffs and unions. We accept that equality in the workplace is tantamount, especially if we are to continue to demonstrate our industry’s global leadership. However, across many of our sectors there is a new type of pay disparity actually being created by the Agency Workers Regulations. Many industry rates, negotiated by either the union or sector associations, are typically higher than PAYE rates of pay – this will all change with the Agency Workers Regulations. Without having enough space to get into the detail of this, suffice to say that this anomaly does not only affect rates, it will also create an imbalance of agency worker supply and demand and will see a new level of negotiation having to be entered into by agencies, clients, associations and unions.