The finance director of  leading recruitment specialist Meridian Business Support has expressed concerns that the recently-closed consultation on the Conduct Regulations may lead the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to concentrate on the wrong areas.

Jeanette Barrowcliffe writes in Recruitment International: “One of the primary goals highlighted by BIS, for example, is to reinforce the principle that employment businesses and agencies are restricted from charging fees to work-seekers. But this matter is already clear cut; fees to workers to find work are not allowed and any agencies doing so are flouting the law.”

Similarly, new regulations facilitating the transfer of workers from temporary to permanent contracts are “wholly unnecessary”, Ms Barrowcliffe argues, as AWR already clearly covers this.

Of “paramount importance” instead, she insists, is the issue of who is responsible for paying temporary/contracting staff for work completed. The business landscape has changed beyond recognition from the much simpler arrangements that existed when the Employment Agencies Act 1973 came into effect, or even the Employment Business Regulations 2003. Agencies would have been responsible for paying the worker back then.

Today, Ms Barrowcliffe explained, the space between employment agency and end client has become considerably more complex, as the number of intermediaries such as Umbrella Companies has proliferated. Employment agencies today, she continued, should not hold responsibility for paying workers who are contracted to an Umbrella Company.

To prevent confusion, she called for mandatory guidelines to be drafted “enforcing a clarification of responsibility”, with the proviso that red tape should not increase as a by-product.

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