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Qualifying period for agency workers is slashed to 12 weeks

REUTERS/Jon Nazca

The qualifying period for agency workers has been reduced from 52 weeks to 12 weeks, in a move welcomed by the GSD and United the Union, both of which had campaigned for the measure.

The move reverses regulations introduced in 2013 that changed the qualifying period and hiked it from 12 weeks to 52 weeks.

It means agency workers can have some of the same rights as their directly employed colleagues after a period of three months.

The change comes two months after nearly 2,000 people marched down Main Street last January calling on the Gibraltar Government to end unfair employment practices.

“This has been something that the GSD has consistently drawn attention to since the regulations were changed in 2013, with Government ministers complaining that we had pursued this issue dozens of times in Parliament,” said GSD MP Daniel Feetham.

“Well, we make no apologies for that and it is a sad indictment of this Government’s socialist credentials that it should have opted to make it more difficult for workers to acquire their rights over the last six years and that its hand has only been forced by a workers taking to the street in a demonstration.”

“The irony is that in the UK, where there are huge concerns about the increased use of casual labour, the equivalent regulations had a 12 week qualifying period. In other words, our workers had to wait over four times as long as their UK counterparts to acquire their rights.”

“Now the Government has to ensure that in future the strategy of moving workers from one part of the public service to another, for example from the GHA to the Care Agency, is not used to prevent workers from serving the 12 week qualifying period as has been the case in the last six years simply because technically the employer may change.”

Reducing the qualifying period for when an agency worker can access parity with those directly employed by the hirer was a key demand made by Unite in its Manifesto for Change in the Labour Market, set out in a letter to chief minister Fabian Picardo last month.

It will provide agency workers with parity of rights with their directly employed colleagues, such as critical conditions of employment such a pay and holidays.

The announcement comes after a series of meetings between Unite and the Chief Minister following the union’s presentation of the manifesto, while discussions on further legislative changes around the use of and rights of agency and fixed-term contract workers, as well as a ban on the use of zero-hours contracts, continue.

Stuart Davies, Unite national officer for Gibraltar, said that while the union was delighted by the government’s agreement to reverse the qualifying period, which was imposed in 2013, it was very much a first step in tackling labour market inequality on the Rock.

“We are delighted that the undertaking we received from Fabian Picardo during our talks on our Manifesto for Change has been met,” Mr Davies said.

“It is a very welcome move which provides agency workers with the right to parity with their directly employed colleagues in a much shorter timescale.”

“We have also had very positive discussions with the government around the active enforcement of the agency worker regulations to ensure that this progressive legislative change is implemented in practice.”

“We’re now looking forward to continuing our constructive dialogue with the chief minister on the remaining 14 points of our manifesto.”

“His initial response has been encouraging and Unite is keen to work jointly with the government of Gibraltar to deliver positive changes to the labour market to benefit all those living and working on the Rock, particularly those who endure insecure working arrangements.”