Brits divided on temp rights

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
October 21, 2011, 2:07 PM GMT+0

British public opinion is split over whether temporary workers should be granted the same rights as their full-time counterparts, our poll has found, as new EU regulations on the issue come into force. While two fifths of people would support new regulations to give ‘temps’ equal working rights,a similar proportion of Brits would oppose this change and feel that in a struggling economic climate, the move could have a negative impact on small businesses.

  • 43% of Brits oppose EU regulations that grant ‘temps’ equal rights to permanent workers, such as the same salaries, holiday allowances and overtime pay
  • 40% of people support such a change

Opinion on this policy divides clearly along party lines.

  • While 56% of Labour voters say they support the move, just 23% of Conservatives agree
  • Compared to two thirds of Conservatives (66%) and under a third (30%) of Labour supporters who oppose the change

‘A fairer deal at work’

Opinion is divided over whether new EU regulations (from a European Directive) giving ‘temp’ workers the same rights as their full-time colleagues is a good idea. The regulations mean that after three months in the same position, temporary workers will be granted the same salary and holiday rights as those in a full-time contract.

TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber has said that these new rights for temporary workers ‘are an important step forward’ that will help the ‘UK's hundreds of thousands’ of temporary workers to get ‘a fairer deal at work’.

The ‘cost’ of equal rights

However, critics say the new regulations could end up costing businesses money when budgets are already tight, and could lead to employers terminating temporary contracts earlier than usual in order to circumvent the new rules.

Adam Marshall, policy director at the British Chambers of Commerce, told the BBC that ‘many businesses rely on flexible labour in the form of agency workers’ and that ‘there is still a demand for flexible, low-skilled labour’.

But he added that some companies will ‘use fewer agency workers as a direct result of the regulation. By reducing the flexibility in our workforce,’ he added, ‘the directive could damage recovery at a time when we need it most.’

The regulations came into effect in the UK from the beginning of this month.

See the survey details and full results here