Contractors working through umbrella companies or limited companies may be interested in the conclusions of a recent meeting of experts to review the effects of the Agency Workers Regulations.

The discussion was organised by the Association of Recruitment Consultants (ARC) and drew together employers, various representative bodies and agencies. With the ending of the first ‘equal rights’ period of the AWR in December, many had expected a rising tide of claims issued by the trade union movement. Speaking for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills and HM Courts and Tribunal Service, Craig Roberts revealed that the Government was unaware of any claims being made. However, all anticipated that this would change and that claims will be increasingly issued.

Numerous hirers have already attempted to limit the equal pay rights effect: a representative of one major hirer admitted at the meeting that his company had taken steps before the regulations became law to create new, lower starter rates for all new employees. As a result, only a tiny number out of a workforce of thousands have received any tangible benefit from the AWR.

Despite the apparent lack of benefit, all who attended agreed that the administrative costs of the AWR are so excessive as to act as a needless deterrent to hirers. Speaking to the news source Shout99, the ARC’s Chairman, Adrian Marlowe, said:

“The expectation that AWR related claims will increase is inevitable and worrying, particularly at a time when the focus should be on helping businesses reduce costs and encouraging employment.” He continued: “The rocks are there to be seen and the Government should be steering a course to lessen the chances of impact.”

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