As of the 1st October 2011, a new legislation – the Agency Workers Regulation (AWR) – will be introduced across the nation which will shake up the UK’s employment industry going forward.

By way of brief synopsis, the AWR will entitle agency workers to the same basic employment and working conditions as if they had been recruited directly.

Essentially, meaning equal pay and conditions between temporary staff and full time employees.

Many recruitment agencies and companies have been slow to react to this news, and there is much confusion within the employment industry, about the complexities involved in the implementation of this type of legislation.

PCG believes that any changes that would make the AWR clearer and simpler would benefit the UK’s 1.4 million freelancers, and would send the strongest message that these workers are not the intended targets of this legislation.

PCG’s Managing Director, John Brazier stated:

“Though freelancers who genuinely supply their services as businesses to other companies are exempt from the AWR, any moves to make this as clear as possible are to be welcomed. Freelancers are the UK’s smallest businesses, and the £21bn their flexibility adds to the economy should never be hindered by unnecessary legislation.

“However, it is not clear if any change to these laws is feasible this late in the day, and we will be seeking further information on this from the Government. It is vital that unnecessary confusion is avoided at a crucial time for agencies and freelance workers.”

The Government has said that it intends to review the legislation in 2013, but there have been suggestions the laws could be reviewed next year instead- providing an opportunity to simplify the legislation with ample time to prepare.

Tom Player, partner at international law Firm Eversheds comments:

“It has always been the case that the Government was walking something of a political knife edge with these Regulations. Even so, it made its intentions to go ahead with them known early on so it would present a dramatic change of heart for there to be any significant turnaround with just 3 weeks to go. Also, a short amendment to the Regulations was issued last month to correct minor drafting errors. If the Government had any intentions to effect anything more drastic, one would have thought that presented the last opportunity in recent months to do it.

“Many aspects of the Regulations could be clearer but the Government has so far opted to produce guidance rather than change the Regulations themselves.

Our advice to hirers of agency workers and the agencies themselves is not to panic – or to hope the Regulations will be changed or simply go away. Inevitably, practical application of the Regulations will throw up all sorts of challenges and issues will arise over interpretation, some of which we can anticipate already. The most important thing is to adopt a common sense approach to business need and the core principles of the Regulations which, after all, is that agency workers should have equal basic pay and equal access to certain benefits after 12 weeks of engagement.”