A North-East father-of-three is calling for changes to the way ‘exploitative‘ employment agencies operate, after a rolling contract was cancelled at short notice, leaving him struggling to support his family.
Luke Buckley, from Darlington, began working for a major recruitment agency last September and was left astonished at the way it operated.
Calling for legal changes, the 36-year-old highlighted issues around a lack of employment rights, the impact of temporary contracts, short notice periods, lack of sick pay and being paid less than permanent employees for the same job.
Mr Buckley said he only took up agency work as “99 per cent” of jobs advertised through Job Centres were offered by agencies and insisted he would rather have any job than none at all.
However, he recently had a rolling contract cancelled with just a week’s notice – a legal practice that has nonetheless left him struggling to pay bills, manage debt and care for his family.
“It’s really wrong that agencies can do this – you can be working one day and told the next that you’re not needed, it’s not right.
“You go to Job Centres and it’s mostly agency work, that’s all that’s out there and you’ve just got to do it.
“People are being pushed into agency jobs and short term contracts where they can let you go at the drop of a hat and that’s a serious problem.”
Darlington MP Jenny Chapman hit out at agencies in response to Mr Buckley’s plight.
She said cases like Mr Buckley’s were becoming common, and added:
“It’s a steadily increasing problem and it’s because some agencies are able to exploit the fact that people are desperate to work in order to support their families.
“They’re unable to break that cycle and I’ve even heard instances of agencies paying the minimum wage then charging people admin costs.
“It’s outrageous and exploitative.”
In response to claims that job agencies monopolise vacancies advertised at Job Centres, a spokeswoman from the Department of Work and Pensions said their system, Universal Jobmatch, revolutionised the way jobseekers look for work.
> If setting people up for sanctions is revolutionary, it certainly has. Otherwise it’s a rubbish site and I don’t use it.
This article was written by Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 24th November 2014
Ed Miliband will pledge to crack down on “cowboy employment agencies” on Monday as he outlines a raft of measures that will ban exclusive recruitment of overseas workers and close loopholes that allow the wages of permanent staff to be undercut.
As new figures show that the number of people on temporary agency contracts is at the highest level since 1997, the Labour leader will pledge to end working practices which allow agencies to operate “in the shadows of our economy and on the margins of the law”.
Miliband will outline a three-point plan to:
• Close a legal loophole known as the Swedish derogation which allows employment agencies to pay agency workers a lower rate than permanent employees if they are paid between assignments. Labour says there is evidence that agency workers are sometimes paid the lower rate even when they work regular shifts.
• Ban employment agencies from recruiting exclusively from abroad.
• Force “rogue agencies” that exploit workers illegally to sign up to a licensing system. Authorities would have the power to revoke a licence if they are found guilty of misconduct.
Miliband will say: “We will not tolerate a zero-zero economy where hundreds of thousands are kept on zero hour contracts while a tiny privileged minority pay zero tax. And nor will we tolerate a world of work that is becoming more brutal because of the way some cowboy employment agencies have been allowed to operate. They are undermining dignity at work, driving down standards and creating greater insecurity for families.
“There has been a huge increase in temporary agency work in recent years. Many employment agencies play their part in supporting businesses, as well as workers, who want flexibility. But there is now overwhelming evidence that some are operating in the shadows of our economy and on the margins of law, damaging the basic fabric of British life that hard work should be properly paid.
“Even the industry itself is expressing concern that the number of rogue agencies have increased in recent years. They are breaking the law on the minimum wage, failing to pay their taxes, and exploiting workers to undercut the wages of permanent staff. These rogue agencies need to know their time is up and we will act.”
Miliband will outline his reforms after the latest official quarterly figures (July to September) showed a 36% increase in the number of temporary agency workers compared with 2009. There is a 20% increase compared with last year.
> It’d be nice if he’d also pledge to outlaw the necessity to sign up for Universal Jobmatch as a condition of receiving benefits (or the belief, fostered by Jobcentre “advisers” that you have to – I still haven’t).
Source – Welfare Weekly, 24 Nov 2014