A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Well Done

Well done to the 136 Labour MPs who voted for Andrew Miller's bill to give temporary and agency workers the same rights as permanent staff.

You can see who they were here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7259471.stm

I hope the Government takes notice of the strength of opinion on this across the spectrum of the PLP.


Blogger Quink said...

My instinct tells me this would be damaging and undermine the whole point of having a flexible bank of agency workers, but I've not read enough to be sure.

Take the profession I trained in: how would the new rules affect supply teachers from agencies? Would they really get the same holiday rights? Who would pay for them? How would sick pay work if you're working in an average of three or four schools per week?

Would the rules apply in the same way as an agency nurse who had been working at the same hospital for - say - nine months?

Surely the differing circumstances of agency staff would make this very hard to implement across the board?

8:14 pm, February 22, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Yes you would get the same pay & conditions as your permanent/directly-employed equivalent.

The bill is here:


"(1) An agency worker has the right not be treated by the employment business, or employment agency, or by the end user less favourably in respect of his basic working and employment conditions than a comparable direct worker is or would be treated.

5 (2)
Subsection (1) above applies only if—

the treatment is on the ground that the worker is an agency worker, and

the treatment is not justified on objective grounds.

In determining whether the right conferred by subsection (1) has been breached, the pro rata temporis principle applies where appropriate."

8:38 pm, February 22, 2008

Blogger Quink said...

So what happens when, for example, an inner-city school has problems recruiting permanent staff? As it is, it will pay over the odds for supply teachers to fill the gap and make sure the children get their right to an education.

As I understand what you say about the proposed legislation, the supply teacher would not only cost more than a salaried member of staff (daily), but that person would also have rights to holiday pay for six weeks in the summer etc etc.

If the agency stumps up the holiday pay, that will be passed on to an already-stretched school in the form of much higher supply rates.

If, on the other hand, the school is liable for the holiday pay, then their budgets will become even more screwed.

Either way, those schools that are most in need of staff will have to divert even more of their valuable resources into temporary staff salaries instead of spending it on resources, equipment etc. It will become safer for schools to hire permanent teachers they know are crap, rather than fairly decent supply ones until they can find the right permanent candidate.

Or have I completely misunderstood?

9:00 pm, February 22, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

It all rather depends on whether you want employment law designed around the rights/needs of employees or those of employers. As a trade unionist I want every worker to enjoy the same basic set of entitlements. These are quite fundamental issues of fairness - being paid the same rate for the job as the people alongside you, having rights to holidays and sick pay. The presence of people in the workplace on differential pay and conditions undermines collective bargaining.

9:10 pm, February 22, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Sounds like a great idea to me and about time....at last some Labour policy that will help thousands of working people in this country. Temp workers are exploited and I welcome this idea.

Luke has this been passed?

9:24 pm, February 22, 2008

Anonymous tim f said...

This is an excellent bill and not before time.

More and more jobs are temp-to-perm so employees have no choice but to work for an agency for the first couple of months of their employment. And some employees find themselves working for months on end for agencies knowing they could quite legitimately be told to find another job with no notice.

If the employer doesn't like their face, or they refuse to do ridiculous amounts of overtime, or they encourage others to join a union, or they have to take a day off because their child is sick, then it's bye-bye and move on to the next person.

The only way to undermine these practices is to give all workers the right to join a union from day one.

9:31 pm, February 22, 2008

Anonymous tim f said...

rich - that was just the first reading so a way to go yet, but the volume of support suggests there are chances it will become law.

9:34 pm, February 22, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


it's a Private Members' Bill rather than Government legislation. Hence all those who voted were back-benchers.It's had second reading but the Government are resisting accepting it passing totally. The Tories are against it. Likely that the Government will in the end offer up some kind of compromise.

9:34 pm, February 22, 2008

Blogger Quink said...

I'm afraid I can't accept that argument.

These days I'm freelance, which in some ways is comparable to being a supply teacher. Companies and charities that need my services hire me, and I don't expect sick pay or holiday pay. Some of those organisations - charities particularly - wouldn't be able to afford fresh work from independent professionals if they were saddled with those costs.

On the other hand, I'm (usually) paid a slightly bigger daily rate than permanent staff - as are many agency staff and - indeed - supply teachers.

I think you are probably mixing up 'fair' conditions with 'identical' conditions, which is a surefire way to price many people out of a job altogether.

Where you need to aiming your fire is at those jobs in which permanent staff have, for employers' convenience and savings, become replaced by agency staff - because they're cheaper. That is dishonest. People earning a living in a flexible way, on their own terms, and accepting the consequences of that decision, should not be penalised.

9:39 pm, February 22, 2008

Anonymous tim f said...

whoops, second reading not first reading as Luke points out

9:40 pm, February 22, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Cheer's Luke, I've been after legislation like this for a long time. This will help a lot of companies that employ perm staff as it will create a level playing field with those that don't.

There's too many greedy companies out there using lax labour laws as an excuse to exploit working people.

This is exactly what people expect from a Labour government...well done.

10:41 pm, February 22, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Quink, you are classed as self employed surely? If so it would not apply....

Incidently if you not getting sick pay what on earth would you do if you got cancer, if I was you I would get insurance.

I know of too many families plunged into poverty because the bread winner gets ill....

10:46 pm, February 22, 2008

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

Well I'm a freelance/casual too and I think we SHOULD expect holiday and sick pay from those that employ us regularly and, remember, DEPEND on us. Why shouldn't we have those rights? We have few enough as it is - we should stop being so servile. This bill doesn't stop those who chose to be self-employed or freelance from doing so.

I agree with Luke completely and I'm pleased at the breadth of support across the party this bill has received.

1:12 am, February 23, 2008

Blogger Quink said...

Rich, E10 Rifle - I used my freelancing as a parallel. I charge more than it would cost to hire permanent staff, so I think it's unfair for me to demand holiday pay on top. Besides, who would pay it?

To return to the more serious point, though,one side effect of this legislation seems to be that it is an expensive way of lowering standards in schools (though I concede it may benefit other areas of work - I just don't know).

Schools that have the biggest problems hiring permanent staff will be forced to spend even more of their tight budgets on hiring agency staff at much greater expense. So taxpayers' money will be diverted, albeit with good intentions, from providing children with a decent education to paying for supply staff's holiday pay. This will disproportionately affect schools in the most challenging areas.

Yes, I'm all for companies being prevented from exploiting lax labour laws, but I'm very much against pushing an inflexible, expensive white elephant through Parliament that will damage vital areas like education, not to mention putting lots of people out of work.

7:44 am, February 23, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

One thing you should be aware of even as a perm member of staff....you still have no right to sick pay in this country. So this proposed bill will have no effect on sick pay.

Sick pay is another subject that I also feel very strongly about. As an employer you have the duty to ensure your staff are well and fit to work. I someone has a serious illness the last thing they should be worrying about is money. I insure my staff against sickness and so do many schools.

For too long Britain has lagged behind Europe on workers rights. Only the other week I visited a factory in Wisbech where workers were subject to terrible conditions. Because of their work status it was clear they did feel able to complain.

I hear the same old arguments about such legislation costing jobs. I heard these before the implementation of the min wage. The reality is companies need workers and as long as the legislation is sensible and costed then it won't effect employment.

The biggest factor that is costing British jobs is the cost of land. It is very hard these days to justify having a factory in this country because of the inflated land prices. Yes wages are the biggest bill but staff create wealth rents and rates don't.

12:31 pm, February 23, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I've been a freelancer - I covered vacancies in the press office at Lewisham Council for 4 months when I was between jobs. I got the same pay and conditions as the permanent staff - including being able to build up holiday entitlement on a pro rata basis. They even agreed to carry on making payments into a pension scheme I had from my previous council employer. Of course as I was temping there was no period of notice on either side for ending my employment. If Lewisham Council can treat freelancers appropriately like that, why can't other employers?

5:56 pm, February 23, 2008

Blogger Quink said...

Because it's often impractical. To take some recent jobs I've done: a day and a half writing teachers' resources for a museum; eight days writing similar for a charity; seven days rewriting a private company's website; two and a half days researching international campaigning for another charity; a handful of days writing publicity materials and updating the website for another charity.

Can you imagine the bureaucracy if every organisation or company needing to outsource a small job also got saddled with holiday pay/ sick pay/pension costs? And had to fill in all the necessary forms? And get them scrutinised by yet more officials

Paying freelancers in this way would stifle organisations that operate on a shoestring, make the most disadvantaged schools pay disproportionately to give their pupils an education, prevent people looking elsewhere for expertise - and put quite a few out of a job.

But returning to the legislation about agency workers - I like the fact it aims to give people parity, but am appalled by the likelihood it will bar small organisations' access to additional talent, add millions to the taxpayers' bill, put people out of a job and discourage individual enterprise.

It's well meaning but foolish, and also very damaging. It sends out a nice message, but it actually makes things much worse. It's legislation that will help a few and drive many out of business.

Worthy but ultimately shameful.

7:29 pm, February 23, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

It wouldn't bar organisations from hiring in small bits of time to get hold of a particular talent because that can be done on a consultancy basis, which I get the impression is the way in which you work. This is about temps and agency staff filling posts when there is a permanent equivalent, and being paid less or treated less well than if they were permanent staff.

7:58 pm, February 23, 2008

Blogger Dave Brinson said...

On the other hand, I'm (usually) paid a slightly bigger daily rate than permanent staff - as are many agency staff and - indeed - supply teachers

Having been campaigning on this issue on behalf of supply teachers, I am disappointed at the inaccuracy of quink's comments on supply teachers.

Before the growth of teacher agencies local authorities had a pool of supply staff who were paid 1/195th of the appropriate national scale rate- 195 being the number of "teaching" days in the year. This reflected a teacher's experience and skill, and holiday pay was legitimately included within the rate.

In most parts of the country, supply agencies pay considerably LESS than this rate- I have colleagues in East Sussex who are underpaid by nearly 40%. Many agencies do not pay higher rates for experienced teachers (even those who have had leadership roles) Also, agency teachers have no access to the pension scheme, whereas directly employed supply teachers do.

As well as ending the two-tier supply teacher system (many schools directly employ known supply teachers, but are constantly tempted by cheaper agency staff) but would also encourage experienced professionals to make themselves available for supply work.

5:40 pm, February 24, 2008

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Quink: Your rate reflect your need for hols and presumably also the contingency of sick and special days off - possibly with insurance.

Supply teachers ditto.

Most agency workers are not in remotely similar circumstances. Their pay is in single figures per hour. And very often they are used for permanant jobs.

On my freelance work I have to allow for lack of holiday pay and in general for lack of fillign 100% of capacity. And where I do assignment work I do get holiday pay in the form of a lump sum pro rata to days worked in any quarter.

1:57 pm, February 25, 2008

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

I have no hesitation in joining your congratulations to all the supporting MPs concerned here.

Weasal words about the 'need for flexibility' and that agency/temp working 'offers employees personal choice' are hogwash.

They would be true if employers did offer agency/temp employees strictly pro-rata or equivelant terms as permanenantly employed employees. Instead, in very many, if not most, cases employers are exploiting the agency/temp route as a way of under-cutting pay. conditions and security.

4:58 pm, February 25, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Unfortunately workers do need protection, and legistlation is the only way. To be honest I wish the government would go a lot further as we are badly lagging behind Germnay and France.

British workers work the longest hours for least rewards and it is getting worse not better. Once one company cuts it labour costs it is like a deck of cards and the rest follow. Just go back 20 years when workers got paid overtime rates, or sunday working premiums....this has vituallly vanished from the private sector.

It's happening already but I think unless we act things like holiday pay will become a thing of the past in the private sector. Companies are already putting pressure on employees not to take holidays and in some cases refusing to pay them. Yes it is illegal but who is enforcing these rights, no one.

When Labour took power from the conservatives there was a ray of hope for 25% of the British population that is in poverty while working. Unfortunately Labour up until now has done very little to help the poorest workers.

I just hope this bill makes it through parliament and comes out intact.

9:51 am, February 26, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

(Another!!) good post here Luke, you're getting me worried!! You have my full agreement.

5:13 pm, February 26, 2008


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