Opting in, opting out

6 Apr

As with any field, freelancing has its share of jargon, but by anyone’s standards the phrase ‘Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003’ does not trip easily off the tongue! Happily PCG members generally refer to them simply as the Agency Regs.

The Agency Regs have seemed to be pretty stable during my time at PCG, but that may be about to change: the equally long-winded Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (rather unappealingly abbreviated to BERR) has launched a formal consultation on changes to them. In particular, they want to reconsider the opt-out.

PCG fought hard back in 2003 for the right of freelancers who use limited companies to opt out of these regulations: the Agency Regs are intended to provide protection to “agency workers” and are not aimed at freelancers who are in business on their own account, but who happen to use agencies to find clients. Any potential threat to the opt-out is therefore to be treated very seriously.

But there’s no need for panic. Firstly, the Government has not committed to take any action at all: it could be that at the end of the process nothing at all has changed. Even better, this could be an opportunity to make the opt-out work much better: operating it in practice can often prove to be something of a sticking-point between agencies and PCG members.

Secondly, PCG – in the shape of our head of public affairs Simon McVicker and policy and external relations manager John Kell – has already met the officials at BERR who are handling this consultation, and they are aware of PCG’s perspective. We are now canvassing members’ opinions, and will probably have a further meeting with officials before the consultation closes on June 11th.

If you’re interested in this issue, the consultation paper can be read on PCG’s Policy forum , where members can leave comments.

It’s also worth remembering that a second consultation is also due soon, again from BERR, about the implementation of the Temporary Agency Workers Directive. Once again, this is aimed at “vulnerable” workers and PCG has already been working hard to keep freelancers out of scope: we have met with BERR, contributed to REC’s significant Agency Work Commission and had discussions with numerous other business groups. I’ll write about that some more when the consultation is published.

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2 Responses to “Opting in, opting out”

  1. rpearse April 14, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    I think that the PCG needs to look again at the opt out stuff, because of the way that middleman agencies are abusing it on the ground. It is frequently made a pretext for unreasonable and unbalanced contract terms. As such I have come round to the view that we should change position on this.

    We’re certainly not employees, and we don’t want employee rights. But the current “choice” of opting in is not actually available, because of the fact that agencies will simply prefer an opted out candidate; and they then use the latter “choice” as an excuse to impose unfair conditions.

  2. adonald April 13, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    Opting out means if you want to go permanent after contracting for a client, the agency can levy a huge Introduction fee at the client.

    Opting out also means I can’t work for the same client using another agency for 6 months because of lock-in.

    How’s that a good idea? Apart from the IR35 implications, how is Opting Out ever a good idea?

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