The following op-ed is authored by Menno Bart, a Member of the Executive Committee of the World Employment Confederation-Europe Public Affairs and the Senior Manager of The Adecco Group Public Affairs, and Dr Michael Freytag, Public Affairs Manager at the World Employment Confederation-Europe. It is a WEC-Europe piece. 


The private employment services industry is a key actor in the European economies, helping to match demand and supply of labour, managing labour market risks and fostering more inclusive and dynamic labour markets. This positive role of our industry has been demonstrated again in the past months, as economic activity in the agency work sector showed a fast and strong recovery as the Covid-19 measures were eased, reaching pre-crisis levels in several European countries.


Yet, we see more and more attempts both at the European and national levels to restrict agency work, often motivated by the willingness to address working conditions of agency workers and to maintain/reinforce the temporary nature of agency work. This was a key element in the reforms in Germany that introduced a maximum length of assignments for temporary agency work and in Italy. Discussions on the temporary character of agency work and the protection of agency workers are also key elements of national discussions on agency work regulation in Spain, where there is a current debate around the range of labour contracts used in the agency work industry and in Sweden.


The private employment services sector fully supports appropriate agency work regulation in Europe. Providing decent and meaningful work is at the heart of our mission. There is already a wide array of EU regulations covering our sector: the Directive on temporary agency work, the Directives on Health and Safety at work, the Posting of Workers Directive and EU legal instruments regulating the protection of third-country nationals. As World Employment Confederation-Europe, we consider that this framework is adequate and up-to-date. There is no need to amend or revise it.


At the same time, EU Directives can only unfold their full potential in unlocking the economic and social contribution of the temporary agency work and in ensuring adequate protection of agency workers if they are correctly transposed, applied and enforced at a national level. For the Directive on temporary agency work, for instance, this means that national regulation needs to be appropriate, and any unjustified restrictions must be lifted. At present, the agency work industry in Europe is still facing many unjustified restrictions that limit its contribution to more inclusive labour markets, such as sectoral bans, the strict maximum length of assignments or restrictions on the range of labour contracts that can be offered to agency workers. Progress should be achieved in this area by reviewing existing, national regulations and working jointly at the national level to remove unjustified restrictions. To read the full article, click here.