Rights of Temporary Agency Workers Acknowledged and Respected
By Lisa Zarb Cousin, MISCO
As temporary work, also known as temping, is seeing increased interest, there is also increased concern that temporary work could be more precarious, less secure and offering less protection to the employee. LISA ZARB COUSIN from MISCO dispels this notion and explains how temporary employees are protected by EU laws anywhere they work.
Temping, or temporary work, is usually for short periods of time, and can vary from a few hours to a span of years in length. In recent years it has been increasingly used to give employers a degree of flexibility in managing absences by their own employees from work, in cases of maternity leave or parental leave or when the company has a particular project or a back log to catch up with.
On the other hand, temping, offers temporary solutions for inactive employees who wish to work but are either currently unemployed or are unable to commit to long periods of work.
A temporary agency worker as defined in the Temporary Agency Workers Regulations is a worker who has entered into a contract of employment or an employment relationship with a temporary work agency and who is assigned, whether on a regular or on an irregular basis, to a user undertaking to work temporarily under its supervision and direction.
MISCO has been at the forefront in promoting temping solutions for a number of years. It assists clients find available temporary positions and it also services companies by sourcing the right temporary employees for them and handling all the contractual and HR obligations involved.
To appreciate fully how respected temporary agency work is, it is important to be aware of the ways temporary work came into being recognized and protected.
The first attempts to regulate temporary agency work were made as early as 1982 but the formal process started in in 1995 when the European Commission launched a consultation about part-time work, fixed-term employment contracts and temporary work. While the first two topics were successfully regulated in 1997 and 1999 respectively, negotiations on temporary agency work were not as straight-forward.
In 2002 the European Commission proposed a directive on temporary agency workers based on the non-discrimination principle but allowing some exceptions. In the same year, the draft directive passed the first reading in the European Parliament but reached an impasse in the Council due to the opposition of some Member States. In 2007, efforts to arrive at a consensus on the directive were intensified and a breakthrough was made possible by an agreement on equal treatment for temporary agency workers between social partners on 21 May 2008. The European Parliament finally approved the proposal for a directive on temporary agency work in October 2008.
This directive is important because it essentially represents a marked improvement in the working conditions of temporary workers across all EU Member States. The main points agreed upon included equal treatment as of the first day on the job in terms of pay, leave and maternity leave, equal access to collective facilities, such as a canteen, childcare facilities or transport services and improved access to training and childcare facilities in periods between temporary workers’ assignments so as to increase their employability. In this regard, penalties have to be placed for non-compliance by temporary work agencies and user companies.
Malta too offers its own legal framework specifically for Temping Agency Workers in Malta. In the Budget of 2006, government had acknowledged that there were employers who abused from persons in temporary positions, and declared its intention to discuss with the social partners about legal provisions to regulate such employment.
Legal Notice 461 of 2010 - Temporary Agency Workers Regulations - was issued under the Employment and Industrial Relations Act (CAP. 452) and came into force on the 5th December 2011 to regulate the basic working and employment conditions for temporary agency workers in Malta.
Such conditions are related but not limited to pay, the duration of working time, overtime, rest breaks, rest periods, night work, annual leave, public holidays, the protection of pregnant women, women who have just given birth or who are breastfeeding, the protection of children and young people, and equal treatment for men and women and any action to combat any discrimination based on sex, race or ethnic origin, religion, beliefs, disabilities, age or sexual orientation.
Who are usually the temporary workers? Temping could prove to be an opportunity to find a permanent job. Some roles start on a temporary basis as the company would sometimes be testing the availability of the role within the company or else would be covering a particular gap in employment. However these roles may eventually turn out to be permanent as the person would have been found suitable for the role.
Temping can also be an immediate solution for someone who is not currently working either because s/he has been made redundant or else because they are searching for a fresh start in a new country or in a new industry. For a parent who wants to gradually return to work, temping is an ideal way to start without the need to immediately commit to permanent employment. Finally, some people prefer to work on an on-and-off basis rather than permanently and temping gives them the opportunity to work in different organizations at various levels.
Students are ideal candidates for temping as it helps them gain experience, be active while studying and in the meantime, earn money. Since various placements involve varying roles, temping exposes the candidate to a variety of work experiences not just in various positions but also across different sectors.
At a time when precarious working conditions in certain areas of employment could exist, employees who consider temping as an option may rest in the knowledge that their rights are equally acknowledged and respected.