TUC demands tougher laws as numbers to soar to one million
THE TUC called yesterday for tougher legislation to stop the exploitation of agency workers, after a study found that the number of people doing agency work is expected to hit one million by 2020.
The agency sector has grown by almost a third since 2011, making its 865,000-strong workforce similar in number to those on zero-hours contracts, according to research by think tank the Resolution Foundation.
The foundation predicted that the number of agency workers across Britain would reach one million by the end of this parliament, if the upward trend continues.
Calling agency staff the “forgotten face” in the recent debate on insecure work, the think tank said a full-time agency worker earns hundreds of pounds a year less than a permanent employee in the same role
The report said that this “pay penalty associated with agency work” exists across the board in age, occupation and education level.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Agency workers don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens.
“Agency staff have fewer rights at work and are more vulnerable to exploitation.
“We need the government to toughen the law to create a level playing field. Too many employers are getting away with treating [agency workers] unfairly.”
British law states that agency workers must be paid the same wage as permanent employees after 12 weeks.
The Resolution Foundation’s findings were published after the GMB union took notorious online retailer Asos to task, raising concerns about pay.
The union attacked a clause in Asos contracts requiring agency workers to wait six months before receiving a pay increase.
Asos has since amended the contracts, but it insisted that the six-month wait had applied to any new staff, not just agency workers.
Resolution Foundation senior policy analyst Lindsay Judge said: “While zero-hours contracts are often in the news, agency workers are the forgotten face of the modern workforce, despite being just as prevalent across the labour market.
“We need to do a better job of understanding who this group of soon-to-be a million agency workers is.
“Many agency workers value the flexibility, variety and absence of bureaucracy that being employed through an agency brings.
“But when agency work has an average pay penalty of £430 a year, many are likely to working in this way out of necessity rather than choice.”