Thirty-eight agencies, in the teaching and childcare sectors, have been issued with warnings by the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate (EAS) for failing to comply with the law.
Eleven agencies were not following the correct processes when carrying out identity and qualification checks on people they planned to supply for work. EAS acted swiftly, although no workers had been placed yet, to ensure the agencies changed the way they carried out and documented the checks.
Inspectors visited fifty agencies in total as part of a targeted national exercise called Operation Hazard. Towns and cities visited include London, Birmingham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Between these fifty agencies, inspectors found 140 breaches. Many of these offences were relatively minor, however the worst practices identified included:
- not agreeing terms with workers before trying to find them work;Ã‚Â
- Ã‚Â not obtaining all the necessary information from the hirer about the job; and
- not giving written information to the worker and / or hirer about the assignment such as who was to turn up and do the work, and where they were supposed to be and when.
Employment Relations Minister Lord Young said:
“Agencies in the teaching and childcare sectors should be especially vigilant that they are meeting all of their responsibilities. Ã‚Â It is important that children are not put at risk.
“Follow up investigations will take place to make sure that the agencies concerned have acted to change their ways. Agencies that continue to disobey the law could be prosecuted, hit hard with unlimited fines or even banned from operating for up to 10 years”.Ã‚Â
Businesses who supply agency workers can find information on their legal obligations at www.businesslink.gov.uk/employmentagencies or by calling the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.Ã‚Â
1) Investigations took place as part of Operation Hazard between 30 November and 4 December 2009.
2) The Employment Agency Standards inspectorate (EAS) is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The Inspectorate carries out inspections of agencies on the basis of perceived risk of non-compliance and investigates complaints about agency conduct. Since April, EAS have won back over Ã‚Â£165k in unpaid wages for agency workers – already more than double the amount clawed back in the whole of 2008/09. Ã‚Â To find out more about the EAS, please visit http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/employment/employment-agencies/index.html .Ã‚Â
3) Agency workers can find out more about the rights they are entitled to by visiting www.direct.gov.uk/agencyworkers or by calling the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.
4) For legal reasons, the Department for Business cannot name the agencies warned, unless they are prosecuted or prohibited.
Commenting on the specific findings of the BIS inspections, Fola Tayo, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s Head of Professional Standards added:Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
“Agencies play a key role in providing safe and flexible resourcing options to schools and childcare providers across the country. Huge progress has been made in terms of professional standards but we need to remain vigilant. The REC’s Professional Standards team will be looking to work closer with the EAS inspectorate over the coming year and specific initiatives such as the Government’s Quality Mark scheme in the education sector will also continue to raise the bar.”
Commenting on the overall enforcement campaign, REC Director of External Relations Tom Hadley says:
“The REC fully supports the better enforcement campaign and we understand the need to publicise the increased activity. However, we are concerned with the tone of recent press releases and the potential impact on industry perceptions. The reality is that detailed inspections of businesses in any sector would find similar minor breaches of applicable regulations.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
“Where more serious breaches are found, we would welcome more details on the specific infringements so that we can raise awareness and potentially launch our own investigation. The Government’s enforcement campaign must be about working together to address the more serious examples of bad practice.”