Growing Parlimentary support for additional rights for temporary workers could create an "administrative nightmare" for hotel companies hiring agency staff, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) has warned.
The warning came after 13 Labour MPs broke ranks with the Government over the issue and tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) last week. It praises Hilton Hotels' recent decision to overhaul its recruitment practices in the wake of uncovered labour abuses of agency staff and calls for re-evaluation of the European Union's (EU) Agency Work Directive.
The directive was blocked by the Government earlier this month but is likely to be presented for debate again next year after Slovakia assumes the EU presidency.
It would give temps in the UK equality with permanent employees on issues such as pay, working time and holidays.
But the BHA warned that if adopted, the vetoed directive could damage the country's flexible labour market and hit jobs. "The directive gives agency workers the same pay and conditions as permanent employees of the hiring company after no more than six weeks' employment. Our concern is that six weeks will eventually reduce to six days and then go down to one day," a BHA spokesman said.
"Our preference is for six months - the CBI favours one year. There are estimated to be over 60,000 agency workers in the industry so this is a major potential problem if the six-weeks employment criterion gets passed."
Last month Hilton revealed plans to centralise its recruitment processes after a year-long investigation by pressure group West London Citizens uncovered labour abuses of agency staff being paid less than the minimum wage. As a result, Hilton cut three of its 12 employment agencies ahead of January's centralisation pilot.
Catherine Howarth, lead organiser at WLC, said: "We're extremely pleased that MPs from up and down the UK recognise the significance of Hilton's policy decision to stop using agencies for housekeeping."
As Caterer went to press, the Government said there were no plans for UK legislation but that it would look to resolve the problem at EU level.
By Christopher Walton