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Flexible Working

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the introduction of employment legislation covering working time and temporary workers is affecting the ability of the manufacturing industry to act flexibly. [116572]

The UK is in favour of legislation to provide minimum standards of employment protection, but is keen to maintain the flexibility our individual labour market requires, and which many individual workers prefer. Last year, we implemented new rights for employees on fixed-term contracts in a way that provides a high level of protection for these employees, without unnecessarily reducing employers' flexibility to use fixed-term contracts. We must allow workers choice as well as protection. The proposed Directive on temporary agency work is currently being considered by the European Council of Ministers. The Directive would not need to be implemented in the UK unless and until it is adopted. The Government are keenly aware of the potential impact on UK agencies and agency workers of a Directive that takes no account of conditions in the UK labour market. We are therefore pressing very hard for the UK's legitimate concerns to be recognised.