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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 16:12 GMT
'Temp' worker law passes first hurdle
Temp workers
Britain has the highest number of temps in Europe
A law to give temporary workers many of the same rights as permanent staff has passed its first hurdle in the European Parliament.

The law is expected to improve temps' rights in the UK, but it will liberalise labour laws in countries such as Germany where regulations are tighter.

The UK's Confederation of British Industry (CBI) claimed companies would cut back on using temps because of higher costs.

But the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the CBI's objections were baseless, citing the working time directive and the minimum wage which the CBI also opposed but which the TUC said had made little impact on employment.

The UK and Ireland are to be given an extra five years to catch up with the new rules as they have little legislation in place.

The bill still requires a second reading and final consultation between the Commission - who originally proposed it - the Council of Ministers representing EU member states and the Parliament before it becomes law.

Temps make up 800,000 of Britain's 24 million strong workforce, the highest number in Europe.

Opposition agents

Employment agencies oppose the laws because they claim it would add extra layer of bureaucracy, make the process more expensive and eat into their profits.

Britain's Labour government also opposed many of parts of the law but recently softened its stance.

In October, the European Parliament's employment and social affairs committee rejected a British backed proposal to exclude temps from the law for their first six weeks with an employer.

Fees cut

Agencies typically charge between 10% and 25% commission for supplying temps and a one-off fee of between 1,500 and 4,000 if they are employed by the company.

The new law proposes that if a company ends up taking a temp on full-time, the agency would no longer receive a fee.

Supporters of the legislation say the removal of placement fees would encourage companies to make workers full-time employees.

Secretarial and clerical workers made up only about 13.5% of temporary and contract workers in 2000 to 2001, compared with 29% three years earlier.

Nearly 9% of temps are managerial and professional workers and about 70% of temps are female, though that percentage is gradually falling.

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Hannnah Reed, employment rights office, TUC
"Temporary workers in the UK generally receive lower rates of pay than other workers."
Katy Nicholson, Reed
"Our only difficulty with it is the mechanics and red tape to implement it."
See also:

18 Feb 02 | Business
30 Sep 02 | Business
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