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AWRs burdensome with some positives

A leading recruitment expert says that although the Agency Worker Regulations are causing huge administrative challenges for both agencies and employers, a few positive things could be emerging as a result of the legislation.

Janette Withey, founder and managing director of London Docklands recruitment company Quay People, says that during this challenging time for all businesses it is easy to be negative about everything and particularly additional bureaucracy. Janette, who is also Chairman of the London Docklands Business Club, stresses that it is too soon to know the long-term effects but her company has seen a significant increase during January and February in permanent job placements.

She said: “Workers having job security can only be good for the economy and the increase in permanent placements could be a sign that companies are deciding to take on staff permanently, rather than using temporary staff. We are also hearing from businesses that are expanding and are now prepared to take the risk of hiring permanent staff, as opposed to relying on agency staff.” Janette says that requirements such as equal rates of pay for temporary staff should not cause problems for recruitment agencies, apart from extra administration, as long as they have in-depth knowledge of client companies’ salary scales and work closely with HR teams.

Another positive, particularly from the client side, is recruitment agencies needing to change their approach to communication and book keeping if they haven’t had an open-book approach in the past. “Explaining how AWR calculations work means agencies being a lot more open with clients when they agree hourly rates. Quay People clients are given comprehensive information on all the calculations so they know our margins and overheads. Clearly there has been a significant increase in administrative work for our staff as we have to calculate the ‘add ons’ for each individual once they reach the 12-week qualifying period, mainly due to the variance in holiday pay,” Janette explained. Other trends include a general decrease in companies using temporary staff which, Janette says, could be an indication that small to medium enterprises are deciding not to take on temporary staff on a long-term basis because of the increase in costs. One of the most negative aspects to the AWRs is the risk of agencies being fined if clients do not pass on full information on parity of pay. Janette says this is particularly worrying for agencies with public sector clients. “So many public sector organisations use managed services companies and agencies rely on information being fed down the line to them. In most cases agencies do not have any personal contact with the management within the end-client organisation. Getting AWR information is vital if we are to avoid fines for not having complete information on parity of pay and other areas. Managed service companies need to understand the implications on agencies given that they are the first point of contact for complaints and therefore liable,” Janette explained.

Top ten tips to help HR teams avoid problems

Remember that the AWRs do not discriminate between full and part-time roles

Check all agency workers are fully informed about their rights under the AWRs

Make sure there is a close and open relationship between your agency and your HR team and regular updates are given to the agency on payscales etc

Always assume the 12-week qualifying period will be exceeded and ask your agency for calculations in advance

Ask your agency to show you all of their calculations

Don’t ask your agency to look at ways to prevent workers from reaching the 12-week qualifying period

Make sure agency workers are given the same access to information about vacancies as other workers

Remember that agency workers are now entitled to on-site facilities such as crèches and childcare, the canteen, car parking and transport services.

Be aware that to count as a new qualifying period, a new assignment must be substantively different from the previous one

And lastly – the AWRs do not make an agency worker an employee of either the hirer or the agency!

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