The TUC is to complain to the European Commission that the UK government has failed to implement the Temporary Agency Workers Directive properly.

By allowing the Swedish derogation model, it claims, the government has permitted a loophole that enables recruitment agencies to directly employ temporary workers and exempts companies that then use them from any obligation to pay them at an equivalent rate to staffers.

In Sweden, where the derogation model originated, workers on such contracts receive equal pay with staffers while they are in post and 90% of that rate between assignments. In the UK the picture is very different, the TUC claims, with workers doing identical work being paid at substantially different rates depending on whether they are staffers or agency employees.

The TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Most people would be appalled if the person working next to them was paid more for doing the same job, and yet agency workers on these contracts can still be treated unfairly.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today news programme this morning, however, the REC’s chief executive, Kevin Green, was adamant that there had been intensive consultation over the directive and that the Swedish derogation model was not a loophole but “a legitimate part of the legislation”.

He went on to say that compromises inevitably had to be made over the directive, including by REC members, but warned that “if you start unpicking regulations because you decide you don’t like them then you risk creating uncertainty, undermining employers confidence and end up with fewer people in work.”

Many skilled and well-paid Umbrella Company Employees, who do not require such protection, may agree.

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