Taking care of our (agency) workers

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Compared to working environments years ago, todays companies, managers and HR deputies go a long way to make their employees feel valued for their contribution to the business. But the question still stands - do all of your workforce feel valued? And if you asked your agency and temporary workers if they feel valued and looked after by the company they are working for, would they give you the same answer as your permanent employees? The government estimates there are currently 1.3 million agency workers in the UK – nearly 5% of the entire working population, so it is crucial employers start to implement equal values to both full time and remote employees. If the treatment is different between workers, then improving the care of your agency workers should be high on your agenda.

It seems that in many places in the UK, agency workers are still not being given the same security as full time staff. A recent investigation by thinktank found that agency workers faced an average penalty of around £400 a year compared with direct employees in identical jobs with identical qualification, which was accumulated by missing holiday pay, firms getting around equal treatment obligations and covert deductions for uniforms, lack of pension enrolment and travel costs all contributed to the losses. Not to mention extra costs for healthcare and even death in service among gig workers. With the average death benefit being just one to two years salary, this usually equates to between £27,600 and £55,200 for the average worker, meaning that agency workers could be owed even less. Even a £55,200 pay-out would leave a shortfall of £66,478 on the average UK mortgage of £121,678, and in light of recent events regarding lack of support after death of employees it should be seen as necessary to provide the same support for all staff.

In addition to these costs, it seems that agency workers are penalised for taking personal time more than permanent employees. Mr Lane, a gig economy worker who died from a diabetes related heart attack in 2018, was charged £150 by DPD when he missed work to attend a hospital appointment and subsequently missed three other appointments for fear of further charges, which ultimately compromised his health later in life.

Our focus is often on our permanent employees, but the sad fact is that for many businesses, they wouldn’t be able to operate without their temporary and agency workers. So why wouldn’t we treat them the same? Why wouldn’t we want this to be more than just another temporary position, rather than making them feel valued and that your business is a great business to work for. We know that we should provide the same benefits for all forms of employees after 12 weeks service, yet some companies still seem reluctant to do so. We focus our time on trying to prove that they’re not employees and are actually self-employed, instead of focusing on making them feel valued members of the workforce. We only have to read the papers to hear about self-employed employees with nineteen years service dying without Death In Service and leaving the family in financial hardship.

Providing the same benefits for all forms of employment can of course have a financial impact for the business but do companies weigh this cost up against the cost of high turnover, low engagement and the poorer productivity this brings?

The question becomes; can you afford not to do it?

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