Temps 'opt-out' clause may face court

We recently reported that some supermarkets were attempting to slip around paying new agency workers the same rate as full-time staff, despite new equal pay legislation which arrived in October. The cut-through is the "Swedish derogation". But there are signs the get-out may be tested in court. Which could force supermarkets and other employers to up their going temp pay rate.


Up to a third less

The TUC already thinks that many temps working in supermarkets, for example, are often paid up to a third less than their full-time salaried colleagues.

"We'd seen so much publicity about what was coming, which had led us to believe we might get a meagre increase in our pay packets," one worker told the Telegraph. "But then we found [out] we're not going to get a penny out of anything. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth."

What was coming was the Agency Workers Regulations, meaning that after 12 weeks of employment, temporary staff get the same pay, holidays, night work, rest periods plus duration of overall work time.

It's thought there are around 1.5m agency temp UK workers. However increasing numbers of employers can seemingly opt out of EU legislation, asking recruiters or agencies to employ their temps directly - so staff are categorised as agency workers, exempt from the new framework.

Unaffordable?

This "Swedish derogation" is legal. Under it, agency workers can't claim their rights for equal pay if they are permanently employed by the host company. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) claims that the alternative to this get-out would be many employers sacking their temps because they can't afford to keep them.

Well, some companies are hurting currently. Premier Foods, for instance, makes use of the Swedish derogation method but it has issued a stream of profit warnings recently. However most of Britain's supermarkets are in a rather more robust position.

Bring on the test court case, then. What is the point of equal pay legislation if you can simply ignore it?
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