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New rules proposed for employment agencies

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The government has set out a series of new regulations affecting the conduct of agencies that supply temporary workers.

The rules have been drawn up in response to a consultation on employment agencies and employment business regulations.

The new laws, which are due to come into effect in October 2010, cover such issues as up-front fees, suitability checks, contractors and the move from temporary to permanent employment.

Specifically, the proposals include: banning or restricting the practice of the charging of upfront fees for work-seekers by agencies in the modelling or entertainment fields; removing the need for employment agencies who introduce workers for permanent employment to undertake suitability checks (apart from workers working with people under 18 or other vulnerable groups); maintaining the present opt-out for limited company contractors; keeping under review the issue of workers operating through umbrella companies; and simplifying the rules on advertising job opportunities.

Tom Hadley, the director of external relations at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), offered a mixed welcome to the plans.

Mr Hadley said: “On a positive note, the government has listened to calls for unnecessary red tape in areas such as suitability checks to be cut. Outcomes on issues such as licensing and enforcement are also in line with our recommendations and we welcome the news that the opt out for Limited Company Contractors will be maintained.”

But Mr Hadley argued that the “real bone of contention is the ‘reasonableness test’ for temp to perm feed which the REC has consistently argued against”.

He said it was not the government’s role to interfere in commercial relationships and added that there is no evidence that the fees charged when a temporary worker moves to a permanent role act as a barrier to full employment.