Use of agency workers challenged by MPs

The use of agency workers by UK companies is being questioned by MPs.

As part of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s inquiry into workers’ rights, the Committee is questioning the recruitment agency Transline, which provides workers to companies such as Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse and previously Amazon.

The Committee will also hear from Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary at Unite the Union and from GMB General Secretary, Tim Roache.

The aim of the session is to examine workers’ rights and the benefits of agency work to workers, employers and agencies. It will also look at the limits that agency workers have in their terms and conditions.

On a wider scale, the Committee is looking into the protections given to agency workers and the rapidly changing nature of work. In particular, it is examining the status and rights of agency workers, the self-employed and those individuals working in the gig economy.

Second time for Transline

This is the second time Transline has been questioned by the Committee. Last year, its Financial Director, Jennifer Hardy, gave evidence when Sports Direct’s working practices and business model were under scrutiny.

The Committee found that workers at Sports Direct’s warehouse in Shirebrook are not employed by Sports Direct, but by two agencies – one of which was Transline. The Committee’s report revealed that workers were not being paid the national minimum wage rate and had very restrictive requirements imposed on them. The working arrangements in place caused the workers to have “minimum security at work”.

The Committee accused Transline of deliberately misleading the Committee with the evidence provided and not having a “basic understanding of employment law and practices”. They concluded that there was no persuasive reason for Sports Direct to engage “workers through agencies on short-term, temporary contracts, other than to reduce costs and pass responsibility”.

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