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Contractors given temporary relief from the Agency Workers Directive

Contractors given temporary relief from the Agency Workers Directive
With the delay of the Agency Workers Directive (AWD) until October 2011, there is at last some relief for contractors. Make no mistake, AWD as drafted would have a big impact on contractors given that agencies and end-clients would be forced into processes that would at best delay placements and at worse, remove some of the roles available.
But it’s only a temporary relief, October 2011 is fixed in stone but at least there is time to plan properly and get all our heads around it. The really ironic thing for umbrella contractors is that much of what AWD tries to do (equal rights with permanent employees) is already provided by businesses like Parasol. On the other hand some contractors don’t want the same rights as the “permie” but because Europe and UK Government can’t differentiate between true vulnerable workers and contractors then everyone is caught. I would still urge everyone to lobby the government to push the point around understanding the labour market in the 21st century as without continued focus everyone will be classed as “vulnerable”. Make no mistake, I am no advocate of exploiting workers and some of the previous practices are rightly condemned but we seem to be blindly lumping everyone together because Europe don’t “get” contracting and the UK Government are scared to define anything. I understand the last point to some degree, they will be concerned that sharp operators will find a loop-hole and that’s another reason why umbrellas (who mainly employ professional contractors) are caught specifically.  It did not make a world of difference to Parasol contractors as we have a very robust employment model and a true accountancy practice but of course, by association we get pulled in.
So business as usual for us all in a time when that does make sense for a change. Contractors can get the roles that are coming up, agencies can plan and end clients won’t be hassled for pay rates and conditions, well not yet anyway.
I have a long held belief that UK plc is stuck between two camps and never gets clarity as a result. As a member of the EU we are held to some of the social chapter practices that don’t work for our markets. We also try to be entrepreneurial yet quite often go too far with that too (banking anyone?). AWD is a good manifestation of that problem, socially driven with the desire to protect workers not getting rights (a good thing) versus some complicated carve outs to try and allow the UK to function (excluded if you work for less than 3 months on one client) for our more flexible approach to business.  So we are stuck between the two and guess who ends up paying?
A braver person may have produced a definition of worker and a framework to prevent abuse (that’s what we lobbied for).  That’s an opportunity missed in my opinion and AWD will loom in the background as a distraction we could all do without.

With the delay of the Agency Workers Directive (AWD) until October 2011, there is at last some relief for contractors. Make no mistake, AWD as drafted would have a big impact on contractors given that agencies and end-clients would be forced into processes that would at best delay placements and at worse, remove some of the roles available.

But it’s only a temporary relief, October 2011 is fixed in stone but at least there is time to plan properly and get all our heads around it. The really ironic thing for umbrella contractors is that much of what AWD tries to do (equal rights with permanent employees) is already provided by businesses like Parasol. On the other hand some contractors don’t want the same rights as the “permie” but because Europe and UK Government can’t differentiate between true vulnerable workers and contractors then everyone is caught.

I would still urge everyone to lobby the government to push the point around understanding the labour market in the 21st century as without continued focus everyone will be classed as “vulnerable”. Make no mistake, I am no advocate of exploiting workers and some of the previous practices are rightly condemned but we seem to be blindly lumping everyone together because Europe don’t “get” contracting and the UK Government are scared to define anything.

I understand the last point to some degree, they will be concerned that sharp operators will find a loop-hole and that’s another reason why umbrellas (who mainly employ professional contractors) are caught specifically.  It did not make a world of difference to Parasol contractors as we have a very robust employment model and a true accountancy practice but of course, by association we get pulled in.

So business as usual for us all in a time when that does make sense for a change. Contractors can get the roles that are coming up, agencies can plan and end clients won’t be hassled for pay rates and conditions, well not yet anyway.

I have a long held belief that UK plc is stuck between two camps and never gets clarity as a result. As a member of the EU we are held to some of the social chapter practices that don’t work for our markets. We also try to be entrepreneurial yet quite often go too far with that too (banking anyone?). AWD is a good manifestation of that problem, socially driven with the desire to protect workers not getting rights (a good thing) versus some complicated carve outs to try and allow the UK to function (excluded if you work for less than 3 months on one client) for our more flexible approach to business.  So we are stuck between the two and guess who ends up paying?

A braver person may have produced a definition of worker and a framework to prevent abuse (that’s what we lobbied for).  That’s an opportunity missed in my opinion and AWD will loom in the background as a distraction we could all do without.

Rob Crossland is the Managing Director of Parasol
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Image: FuBe vorm Pool (27c) by Jorg Weingrill

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