Morrisions may deny temps equal pay

Blame it on Tesco. Other supermarkets - the latest one is Morrisons - are also attempting to wriggle out of paying temp workers less than permanent staff. Morrisons has admitted it is talking to recruiters that may see the company employ temporary staff directly from an agency, which means temp staff are denied rights to the benefits and pay held by full-time staff - even if they have been in the job for 12 weeks or more.

Opt-out

Although a new law has come into force giving temp workers - around 1.5m of UK workers - the same wages and benefits as permanent staff after a 12-week period, employers can still opt out by asking recruiters or agencies to employ their temps directly. That means their staff get categorised as agency workers, exempt from the new pay framework.

Other companies using this get-out clause includes Premier Foods who hire large amounts of temps at key periods, including Christmas. It's thought some companies are also continuing to introduce lower pay rates for newly recruited permanent staff. Which, of course, will drive down the rate for which temps are paid.

You might ask what is the point of employment legislation to give temporary staff better pay and conditions if companies can simply opt-out, if they choose. Still, employment relations adviser Mike Emmott from the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development has little problem with the current framework.

Some more equal than others

"I don't think agency workers are vulnerable. That employer will have to pay the minimum wage and other conditions laid down by statute. In other countries, like Spain and Italy, they have deliberately adopted millions of workers as temps, as a way around employment legislation. That's not so much the case in the UK."

But TUC general secretary Brendan Barber takes a very different view. "Using permanent contracts to avoid equal pay rights is not just unfair but will cause tension between workers with different pay."

And a spokesperson from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Worker (Usdaw) union is similarly unimpressed: "Usdaw, along with other trade unions, have opposed this loophole and wants to see all agency workers get equal treatment."

"We would like to see agencies following the spirit of the regulations and offering all agency workers equal treatment. Any agency workers unhappy with their terms and conditions should join a trade union to get advice and representation."
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