UK/EUROPE – A Proposed EU directive giving temporary agency workers across Europe the same rights as full time employees has been welcomed by Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC), since more than half the EU’s agency workers are employed in the United Kingdom.

The new laws could tackle pension provision and the TUC’s pensions’ spokeswoman Michelle Louis says that agency workers could even be included in defined benefit schemes, despite the transitory nature of their employment

“Though stakeholder and defined contribution plans are more obvious choices for agency workers, since they deal with mobility more effectively, there is no reason why some company DB plans can’t be opened to agency workers. It all really depends on how long they stay with one company. But the type of scheme is irrelevant at this stage. It’s giving agency workers access to pension provision in the first place that is important.”

However, a spokeswoman for the consultants Watson Wyatt says that whilst she cannot comment on the directive until it has been published, it is likely to be a de-facto extension of EU’s fixed-term workers directive which created an expensive administrative burden on companies having to adjust their schemes.

“With fixed-term workers, there was a problem knowing who to compare their working circumstances to and how to work out their pension entitlement. The same problems are likely to occur for agency workers. Even for defined contribution schemes, there’s not much point joining a plan if you can’t accrue a decent amount because you keep moving around,” she says.