The steady nine-to-five job is robbed of its popularity. By now almost a third of the employed population have entered into a flexible employment contract. The increasing demand for flexible workers can be seen in the employment agency sector. Roughly 700,000 temporary agency workers turn to work annually. This makes the employment agency sector the largest employer in the Netherlands. In the years to come this business sector will even grow more and more, at least that is the prospect.
It has to do with the recent reform of the labour law. The Work and Security Act is an attempt by the government to discourage a flexible jobs market having become off balance and to restore solidarity on the shop floor. All this by means of aiming at equal pay for equal work, offering better protection to employees with a flexible contract, and to change dismissal law into more honest and cheaper rules. In addition flexible workers are entitled earlier to a permanent contract.
In respect of the employment agency sector exceptions remain nevertheless. The first year and a half of the employment a temporary agency worker can be sent away fairly simple.
The fact is that the collective bargaining agreement for employment agency workers makes it possible to bind employees for a year and a half to the so-called ‘temporary employment clause’: end of assignment also means end of temporary employment contract. And by the extension of the ‘chain provision’ employment agencies can offer their personnel six temporary contracts in four years before a permanent employment takes effect, whereas regular employers are bound to a term of three temporary contracts in two years. The two mentioned exception rules added together temporary agency workers in this way keep on being employable as flexible worker for five and a half years.
Regrettably exploitation and evasion can still be found in the employment agency sector. Arrangements like ‘pay rolling’ or ‘contracting’ -actually being legal- by which businesses subcontract certain activities, were used improperly only too often by scrubbing round statutory collective bargaining agreements in the past, and so keep the cost price down. De Koning Vergouwen regularly act on behalf of both trade unions and employers’ organizations within the employment agency sector that maintain the collective bargaining agreements. After hundreds of judgments in favour of the claimants and tens and tens of rulings this led to the first judgment in this area by the Supreme Court . And by a recent high-profile case the Judge forced Qatro employment agency to make a subsequent payment of 350,000 euros to Polish mushroom pickers. The fact is that Qatro had dodged through a bogus application of contracting the collective bargaining agreement for employment agency workers.
De Koning Vergouwen is dedicated so to speak to the employment agency sector, not only in the role of watchdog but also as instructor. For a number of years we have arranged for lectures for Artra, a training institute for entrepreneurs in the employment agency sector.
On account of our expert knowledge of the complex laws and regulations and the different collective bargaining agreements we are also often consulted by the branch, certainly now that since 1 April 2015 most employment agencies are bound to offer their temporary agency workers a pay equalling the one on the shop floor concerned.
As the experts in the field of flexible labour our lawyers are only too pleased to think with along you about future developments: how can employment agencies keep on discharging their duties properly and deliver flexible, yet qualified, trained, fairly paid and happy employees, and so at a competitive cost price?