21 October 2010 #Employment
The Employment Relations Minister, Ed Davey, announced this week that the government will not be amending the Agency Workers Regulations before their entry into force in October 2011. The Regulations, which are a requirement of an EC directive, were passed in the last weeks of the Labour Government and, following the general election, the Coalition Government made a pledge to review certain aspects of the Regulations in the light of concerns raised on behalf of employers, in particular by the CBI.
The Minister stated that the government had "considerable sympathy" with proposals aimed at reducing the impact of the Regulations on business. An important proposals included the simplification of the controversial definition of "pay", including in relation to performance related bonuses. There was also a proposal to simplify the administration of the 12-week qualifying period to infrequent, short-term assignments).
However, the government considers itself constrained by the "unique legal situation" created by the CBI/TUC agreement on how to implement the EC directive into UK law. The Regulations are significantly based on this agreement and it is felt that any amendments made without the consent of the CBI and the TUC could subject the Regulations to a possible legal challenge. As the government has been unable to reach agreement with the CBI and the TUC on amendments, it has decided not to take any steps which could put the 12-week qualifying period at risk of being set aside.
The Minister said, "This outcome is clearly disappointing. However, the Government have taken the view that the absolute priority must be not to take any steps that could put at risk the 12-week qualifying period, which significantly mitigates the burdens the legislation will place on employers. The Government will not therefore be proceeding with any amendment of the regulations themselves. We will instead now use the time that is still available before the regulations` entry into force to develop the best possible guidance to help employers comply with their new obligations."