The European Parliament has approved the proposal for a Directive on Temporary Agency Work, which had been agreed by the Council of the European Union in June 2008.

The Directive entitles temporary agency workers to equal treatment compared to permanent workers.


  • This may have a substantial impact on employers who use agency staff. 
  • Although this is not yet law, it must be implemented into UK law and take effect within 3 years. 
  • The Directive provides for temporary workers to receive the same rights as permanent workers from the first day of their employment, but in the UK temporary workers will only be entitled to the same benefits as permanent workers after 12 weeks of employment.


The EU Directive on agency workers has been approved without amendment by the European Parliament.

The aim of the Directive is to create parity between temporary and permanent workers as regards their working conditions and benefits. Thus temporary workers will be given the same rights as permanent workers in relation to matters such as pay, maternity leave, access to childcare facilities and vocational training programmes.

Although the UK Government agreed with the principle of the need to protect the rights of temporary workers, they have openly expressed their opposition to certain provisions in the Directive. Under the Directive the social partners in a member state can agree upon variation of the rights afforded by the Directive.

In particular the Government did not agree that temporary workers should be entitled to the same rights as permanent workers from day one. However, in contrast, the TUC heavily favoured the idea of providing for better rights for temporary workers as soon as possible, disagreeing with both the Government and the CBI.

In our Newsflash of 20 May 2008 we reported that the Government, TUC and CBI had reached a compromise whereby temporary workers would be afforded the same pro rata pay and "basic work and employment conditions" as permanent staff, upon completing 12 weeks of employment.

The UK Government now has three years in which to implement the Directive and we will let you know of any developments.