Features: October 26th, 2012

The Agency Workers Regulations were introduced one year ago. Agency workers are now entitled to the same basic employment conditions as permanent recruits after 12 weeks in the same role. Jon Milton explains how Comensura has supported clients in complying with the regulations.

Since the implementation of the Agency Worker Regulations (AWR) in October 2011, we have supported our clients through all the challenges they have faced. From exemptions to comparative data – together with our clients, we have learnt a lot. Despite many concerns that the implementation would be met with panic and disorganisation, Local Authorities and companies across the country have coped well and have worked with their recruitment suppliers to adhere to the requirements.

So what have we learnt one year into AWR?

Based on temporary assignment figures, we know that the length of the assignments employers have recruited for has reduced, a direct impact of the AWR. After an initial reduction in assignment lengths following the initial announcement of the AWR, we saw a brief recovery until the beginning of 2012. The average number of assignment days is now below 40 for temporary contracts compared to 61 at the beginning of 2012.

The concern with the fall in the length of contracts is that this approach is actually costing employers more money. Data from our clients show that the additional costs of AWR compliance for a candidate are lower than the amount spent in recruiting multiple candidates for shorter amounts of time.

We’re also seeing that fixed-term contracts are being used to avoid the additional costs of temporary labour as a result of the implementation of the AWR. Over the long term, it remains to be seen how efficient this is in terms of administration and the management of work flows.

The Swedish Derogation Model was talked about as a possible means to minimising the impact of AWR and we are pleased to see that few clients were distracted by or took up this approach to managing their temporary labour needs.

We’ve also seen that confusion remains around some key elements of the AWR and this has the potential to affect compliance levels. For example, 64% of all enquiries Comensura received in the past year were regarding comparative data when assessing the benefits for temporary employees who pass the 12 week mark. 23% were questions regarding differing interpretations of the regulations.

One year on, Comensura is now advising clients on how to remain compliant in the context of AWR:

Get Advice on Pay Increments
We provided guidance to our clients in April this year on this area and organisations working with a managed services provider should check that they are up to speed on this area by getting the right advice.

Be Clear on Entitlements
Covering such areas as holidays and overtime rates, HR teams need to be clear and up to date on how entitlements are managed according to AWR regulations. Critically, this means that HR, Procurement and Line Managers need to communicate more so that they are sharing information and getting entitlements right.

Appoint an ‘Owner’ of AWR
We have found that an internal owner or sponsor of AWR such as HR or Procurement means that issues get resolved more quickly. If ownership of compliance with AWR isn’t set up in your organisation, you should organise this now.

Support your Line Managers
While we have found that most HR and Procurement teams are very clear on the regulations and how to comply, Line Managers need more support in this area. Within the most compliant organisations, a team member was pre-selected and trained specifically to provide additional support on the AWR. However, in the current climate, this scenario is often not possible to resource.

Know How to Manage Risk
When it comes to parity of entitlements and pay, line managers need the right advice. People trained internally on AWR should be thinking both about compliance but also risk

Carefully Manage the Flow of Data
If I were to make a single recommendation to ensure AWR compliance, it would be to maintain the flow of data. If your recruitment supplier is unaware of the benefits your existing employees are eligible to, they will struggle to ensure parity for longer term temporary employees. Ensuring that your suppliers, HR and Procurement team have this data will avoid confusion and maintain compliance.

As we move into the second year of AWR, the onus is on managed service providers to collaborate even more with the supply chain. Working together, all of us can maintain compliance with AWR and in a way that makes good financial sense for employer organisations.

Jon Milton is Business Development Director with Comensura.