PositionEuropean Union

Failure by many EU member states to implement the 2008 Agency Work Directive not only flouts EU regulation but is failing Europe's unemployed, who stand to benefit from the opening up of labour markets. As the Commission prepares to release its review of the application of the directive by member states, it needs to take a strong stand on the need for all markets to transpose all elements of the regulation.

When policy makers rubber-stamped the directive, there was general consensus that its implementation would take a balanced approach by stimulating job creation while providing adequate protection for agency workers. However, transposition has been patchy and unbalanced and unjustified restrictions on temporary agency work still exist in many markets.

The directive aims to ensure that agency workers receive equal pay to permanent workers. The good news is that all member states have transposed this element or agreed terms for derogation with social partners in order to balance the interests of employers and workers.

However, the legislation also requires the review and removal of unjustified restrictions which stifle temporary work agencies and prevent them from creating jobs. Countries with unjustified restrictions either in laws or collective labour agreements still in place include Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Examples include sectoral bans, quotas on the maximum number of workers, too short maximum length of assignments or restrictions on the kinds of labour contracts that can be offered. The Commission must give more concrete guidance on assessing restrictions and prohibitions and its own EU expert group has provided some good starting points for clearer direction to member states. We need a level EU playing field for temporary agency work: the current situation creates legal insecurity for companies and hampers job creation.

We have raised the issue with policy makers on many occasions, and our Swedish member, Bemanningsforetagen, has launched complaints to the Commission to challenge its government's interpretation of the directive as unjustified restrictions remain. Further...

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