James Mallick, operations director at Top Gear Recruitment, comments on the implications of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) and explains what the new legislation will mean for the food and drink industry:

The Agency Workers Regulations come into force on 1 October 2011. The new laws will affect every company that uses agency workers to fill temporary vacancies in order to meet its production requirements. As there are seasonal variations in the demands of suppliers, the food and drink industry perhaps relies on these kinds of workers more than most sectors. Nearly 1.5 million agency workers are employed in the UK every day and the new regulations will have an impact on these people and the businesses that use their skills.

So what are the main features of the new legislation and what will it mean for businesses that use temporary workers? Under the new rules, after a 12 week qualifying period, agency workers will be entitled to the same basic working and employment conditions as permanent members of staff working in ‘the same’ or ‘broadly similar’ capacity.

Following 12 weeks of work in an assignment, agency workers will be entitled to equal treatment in terms of working hours, overtime, breaks, rest periods and holidays. They’ll also be allowed equal access to collective facilities, such as childcare and transport services or a canteen, from the first day of their assignment.

Occupational benefits, such as sick pay, a pension and maternity pay, are excluded from the AWR, as are some bonuses. These are based on organisational performance or are designed for the long-term motivation of employees.

Although this change in the law has been publicised and guidance has been issued by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), there still appears to be a general lack of understanding among many employers as to how the regulations will impact on them. We recently conducted a survey of supply chain businesses that found 40% of employers are unsure as to how the AWR might affect their business. A further 10% said they were unaware of the consequences of non-compliance.

We also found that 27% of companies wouldn’t be seeking professional guidance on the matter – a fairly risky move, considering the stiff financial penalties for not complying with the regulations!

I’d urge all businesses in the food and drink industry to find out as much as they can about the new regulations before 1 October. There is a lot of information out there – particularly on Government websites – and businesses can always approach recruitment companies for more guidance on the implications of the new legislation.

For more information, visit www.topgearrecruitment.co.uk or email [email protected]


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