Government looks to allow companies to fill staff gap with agency workers

The government has announced its intention to repeal the law which bans companies from hiring agency workers to deal with staffing problems as a result of strike action.

However, this plan has been met with controversy and has caused uproar with trade unions.

Currently, businesses are prevented from introducing an agency worker to take up the duty of a striker under Section 7 of the 2003 Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations.

The bid to lift the ban comes during the biggest rail dispute since 1989 which sees workers for 13 different train lines, Network Rail, and the RMT union on strike over salary and job security this week, with plans afoot to continue action throughout the summer.

The Trade Union Congress have described the proposal as a safety risk and an attempt to undermine the bargaining power of rail workers.

Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR, says the use of agency workers can give staff more flexibility during strikes, but they must ensure that they have the relevant skills to fulfil the role.

“While it obviously is causing controversy amongst trade unions, the lifting of this ban on agency workers gives employers more flexibility during strikes and therefore minimises business disruption.

“At the same time, employers must be careful in these situations. They need to build relationships with the right agencies to make sure the staff they take on are actually suited to the role. Problems can arise when you take on workers from an agency who are not qualified or lack the basic skills required.

“It may be useful to be in contact with learning and development experts to create a good training programme to prepare agency staff to cover key roles. When these roles need to be fulfilled quickly, a full induction isn’t always possible so you may only have time for a whistlestop orientation, which covers all the aspects of the job in hand.”

The legislation changes that the government has proposed are still subject to parliamentary approval.


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