How have we arrived at this point?

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (AWR) are intended to ensure that:

  • after 12 weeks in a given job, agency workers will be entitled to equal treatment in respect of certain basic working and employment conditions;
  • from the first day of their assignment, agency workers will be entitled to information about vacancies in the hirers organisation to give them the same opportunity as other workers to find permanent employment, equal access to on site facilities such as childcare and transport services and;
  • additional rights for new and expectant mothers.

The AWR were laid before Parliament back in January and are due to come into force on 1 October 2011. The AWR implement the EU Directive 2008/104/EC on temporary agency work and some of its terms, such as the controversial 12 week qualifying period, are the result of a deal brokered by the former Labour Government between the CBI and the TUC back in 2008.

Prior to the election, the Conservative Party was opposed to the introduction of the AWR in their existing form. In particular, it opposed the 12 week qualifying period which it considered to be too short. After the election the new Government confirmed that it was "considering the issue" of implementing the Directive.

It now appears that reopening the deal brokered back in 2008 is too difficult. In his ministerial statement, Edward Davey indicates that the Government was "constrained" by the deal brokered in 2008 by the previous Government. While describing the outcome as "disappointing", the Government's hands were tied as "any amendments proposed to the regulations touching upon the subject matter of the CBI and TUC agreement, which did not have the agreement of those parties, would face the risk of being set aside in the courts in the event of a legal challenge."

Best practice guidance to assist employers in complying with the AWR is currently being developed and due to be published by the Government in the early part of 2011.