After many failed attempts over the last six years by the EU Council of Ministers to agree on proposals to improve the employment rights of agency workers, the European Parliament has finally approved the draft Temporary (Agency) Workers Directive, without amendments, so it can now become law.
The European Commission estimates that there are three million temporary agency workers currently working in the European Union who will benefit from better protection of their working conditions.
The Directive will ensure:
- equal treatment from day one for temporary agency workers, compared with permanent workers, in terms of basic working and employment conditions (including pay, holidays, working time, rest periods and maternity leave), unless social partners agree otherwise;
- equal access to collective facilities (such as canteens, child care facilities or transport services); and
- better access for agency workers to training, both when working on an assignment and in between assignments.
A compromise deal made between the Government, trade unions and employers means that agency workers in the UK will not be given these rights until they have been in a given job for 12 weeks. Although pay is included, occupational benefits (e.g. sickness benefit and pension schemes) that recognise the long-term relationship between employer and permanent employee are excluded.
EU member countries will have three years to incorporate the provisions of the Directive into national law.