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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 11:34 GMT
Bosses warn against rights for temps
employment agency
CBI wants employment agencies to raise temps' rights
Business leaders have warned that a leaked European Commission draft proposal to extend temporary workers' rights could be very damaging "to all concerned".

The report, seen by BBC News, suggests companies should give agency temps the same remuneration as permanent staff.

Director general Digby Jones
Digby Jones: Incentive removed
This could include equal pay, pensions, holidays and health insurance.

But Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director general Digby Jones has written to the Commission complaining that the plan would remove incentives to hire temps.

Agencies' responsibility

UK companies currently hire more than a million agency temps each week to cover absences and fill skills gaps.

Mr Jones says it should be up to their employment agencies to ensure they are treated equally.

"The flexibility of the labour market...could be under serious threat from this," putting the UK's position as the healthiest economy in Europe at risk, Mr Jones told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

"It's depressing that Europe decides it's going to try and bring everyone down to some sort of low common denominator...It's socialism coming straight out of Brussels," he said.

Unequal pay "bad for business"

But the Trades Union Congress (TUC) welcomed the draft proposals, arguing that lower rates of pay for temporary staff undermine workforce motivation and act as a brake on productivity.

"Unequal treatment for temporary workers is as bad for business as it is unfair to workers themselves," said TUC General Secretary John Monks.

"Temporary workers in the UK not only face substantial job insecurity but they also often receive far less favourable treatment than those they work alongside," he added.

According to the TUC, almost half of temporary workers get paid less than permanent staff.

Benefits gap

They also miss out on a range of benefits that are automatically given to permanent staff.

While there is some protection for temporary workers, many do not have access to sick leave or holiday pay.

Everyone is entitled to statutory sick pay if they have been contributing towards national insurance and have been sick for at least four days in a row including weekends and bank holidays.

However, the rates for temps are paltry in comparison to full pay offered to permanent staff.

The European Commission's draft proposals may be revised before the final version is published.

The final draft would then have to gain the backing of European employment ministers before becoming law.

Last year, the European Court of Justice forced the UK government to scrap laws denying freelance workers the right to paid leave until they had worked for a minimum of 13 consecutive weeks.

The BBC's Quentin Somerville
"Such a bonus will have to be paid for"
David Coats, TUC
"It has to be fair"
Digby Jones, CBI Director General
"That flexibility is under serious threat from this"
See also:

18 Feb 02 | Business
Q&A: Your rights as a temp
12 Dec 00 | Business
Microsoft settles 'permatemp' case
26 Jun 01 | Business
Holiday pay for temps
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