AWR – Ineffectual and flawed or crucial to the wellbeing of temps?

Following our blog last month on the current state of both the temporary and permanent market, this week saw an interesting development in the ongoing effects of the AWR (Agency Workers Regulations) on employment in the UK.

The AWR entitles temps to the same treatment as permanent staff after being with a company for a period of more than 12 weeks. This has significantly affected the temporary market with the REC and KPMG revealing that temporary placements fell at the fastest rate for two and a half years.

But in the face of the employers’ increased liability stemming from this new legislation, man y businesses are seeking to circumvent the changes through an extraordinary loophole. Working in a similar way to the widely-used, EU-devised Working Time Directive, the loophole permits agencies and business to ask temps to sign away their rights by signing a document that waives their entitlement to equal treatment. And whilst this concept is only just beginning to see its effects felt, the fear is that going forward, many other employers will adopt this strategy nullifying any positive effects of the legislation for temps as they are squeezed out of opportunities should they be unwilling to sign.

Should this be the case, temps will be forced to choose between adhering to the employers’ tactics or opting for contract or permanent jobs, which have replaced many of the previously available temporary positions.

More optimistically however, it is widely hoped that employers will respect the legislation and only operate using the loophole when entirely necessary. The most widely touted suggestion of a necessary situation is that of a small business where the additional costs could prove disastrous to the company and therefore difficult for the Chancellor and the UK economy to stomach.