EUROPE - EU moves to give agency workers equal employment and pension rights have been backed by the European Parliament.
The vote supports a European directive which will give agency workers the right to join occupational pension schemes after only six weeks’ employment.
But the move has angered employers and unions.
Confederation of British Industry pensions officer Jamie Bell said the six-week vesting period was too short and should be extended. And he condemned MEPs for backing “inappropriate ref-orms” which will be bad for UK business.
He said that apart from the inherent cost involved, the directive would pose extraordinary administration complexities on employers – especially smaller firms, which rely more heavily on temporary staff.
He said: “If you are an agency worker you are forever jumping from one job to the next – each of these employers could have a different pensions arrangement for the worker.”
But TUC general secretary John Monks believes the qualifying period is a “get out clause for employers”.
He said: “The six-week loophole gives unscrupulous bosses a licence to continue underpaying some of their staff. It is difficult to see why temps in the UK will be five years behind the rest of Europe in getting the full benefits of this protection.”
But a leading law firm believes companies will be able to deny access to schemes on the grounds of costs.
Eversheds partner Harold Lewis points out that similar “get out” clauses already cover fixed-term regulations released last month.
The EU intends to have its agency workers’ legislation in place by next September. The UK will then have 18 months to implement the directive.
The government has vowed to fight to make the directive more business-friendly when it reaches the Council of Ministers next year, but it lacks the votes to block the measure altogether.
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