New regulations come into force in April 2004 that will require employment agencies to vet temps who work with vulnerable members of society.
Agencies that supply temporary staff to work with children, the elderly or the infirm will have to carry out additional checks on their personnel. These include obtaining copies of relevant qualifications, taking up two references and taking all reasonable steps to check that an individual is not unsuitable for the type of work in question.
This move is one of a series of measures to update the regulation of employment agencies. Over half a million people work through 17,000 agencies and employment businesses in Great Britain .
Other measures being introduced are:
- agencies placing actors, models and extras will no longer be allowed to charge fees up-front before finding their clients work;
- employment businesses will no longer be able to withhold a worker's pay because they cannot produce an authenticated timesheet;
- agencies will have to obtain information on any health and safety risks known to the hirer and on the steps taken to prevent or control these risks;
- provisions to allow limited company contractors, who are often highly paid, to opt out of the regulations;
- limits on provisions that prevent temporary workers from taking permanent jobs with the hiring company unless a fee is paid to the employment agency.
The new rules will be enforced by the Department of Trade and Industry Agency Standards Inspectorate. The maximum penalty for breaking the regulations is a 5,000 fine for each offence and a maximum ban from operating of 10 years.
Whilst declaring that the new measures will give all who use employment agencies greater confidence and security, the Government has meanwhile maintained its position over equal pay and basic employment rights for agency workers, insisting that these should only extend to temporary workers who have held the same post for over a year. This has, effectively, blocked the progress of the EC Temporary Agency Workers Directive.