For the past 10 years there have been calls to offer greater protection for 'vulnerable' temporary workers. Now a proposed EU Directive, designed to protect these agency workers, could be about to come into force. What are temporary workers and what does this directive mean to people in the Devon area?
Being a temporary worker can enable an employee to work flexibly to fit around their lives, such as childcare or gain valuable experience in a specific field they may wish to advance in. Statistics show that young people (under the age of 25) make up the largest number of temporary workers.
In the UK, about 80% of temporary work is in the service and public sectors.
Research has shown that a higher percentage of temporary workers are unhappy with their working conditions and have general job dissatisfaction than permanent staff. Many would not choose to undertake temporary work, but would prefer secure permanent employment.
Temporary work typically involves a third party, usually a recruitment or employment agency, which acts as an intermediary between the worker and employer. Unlike standard permanent employment it is actually the agency that employs the worker, hiring them, as needed, to companies on a temporary basis.
Temporary workers move frequently from one employer to another, thus making it difficult to secure collective representation rights.
Are there any problems associated with being a temporary worker?
When compared to all other forms of employment, temporary work has been found to have the worst record for working conditions, judged on a number of factors, including repetitive labour, and lack of information about workplace risks.
Temporary workers, compared with permanent staff, tend to have less control over the work they do and how they do it; receive less training and, by the nature of the job, undertake more shift work and, therefore, have less time to complete jobs.
The average temporary assignment can last only two weeks.
Although there are occasions when a temporary worker may earn higher rates of pay than an equivalent permanent worker, often they may earn lower wages for similar work, as well as being excluded from bonus schemes and benefits available to other employees.
It is clear there is a growing need for a legal framework to offer protection to temporary workers. This Directive was proposed by The European Commission in 2002, in essence stating that a temporary worker may not be treated less favourably with regard to working conditions such as rest periods, pay, working time and holidays etc, than an equivalent permanent member of staff in the same firm, doing a 'comparable' job.
The principle of the Directive being non-discrimination against temporary agency workers, thus creating a minimum EU-wide standard and create a fair playing field for both employers and employees.
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