Angela Coleshill HR director, Food and Drink Federation
Sir; We were highly disappointed to see the government's announcement that agency workers in the UK will receive equal treatment to permanent employees after just 12 weeks employment. During the discussion period on the Temporary Agency Workers Directive, FDF argued that the qualifying period should be longer than the six months that the UK was lobbying for. We feel that this period should be at least 26, and ideally 52 weeks. The decision to go for 12 weeks will have a big impact on our members. Because of the seasonal nature of our business we rely heavily on temporary workers. A 12-week qualifying period will mean an increased administrative burden for employers. In addition, if one of the consequences of this decision is more frequent changes in temporary staff, this will negatively impact the flexibility of our members and, ultimately, their competitiveness at a time when all food businesses are trying to keep a lid on costs. However, we were pleased to see the government agreeing that the definition of 'pay' in the directive should be clear and should exclude all benefits, including occupational pensions and sick pay. The final decision on these changes will be made in Brussels, and FDF will continue our efforts to ensure UK manufacturing interests are communicated at this level.