Right of Reply: Rona White

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The Independent Culture
A temp responds to Kate Hilpern's critique of the forthcoming Employment Agencies Act, which will stop recruitment firms from `selling' temps to employers wanting to offer them full-time posts

IT'S HAPPENED again. No, not a second solar eclipse - but another story about employment agencies. According to Brian Wilkinson, vice chair of the Federation of Recruitment and Employment Services (FRES), employment agencies will suffer a 15 to 30 per cent downfall in profits. To survive, they will, apparently, have no choice but to cut down on training temps hoping to re-enter the employment market.

His apocalyptic stance is misleading. The present economic climate ensures that employment agencies are profiting from the training of temps that they acquire from elsewhere. In the desktop publishing field, for example, agency temps need two years operational experience before they can register for work; and secretarial agencies always test temps on their existing typing, shorthand and audio skills before they use them.

It's usually the case that employment agencies offer temps training only when they can't meet organisations' current skills requirements.

Many employment agencies may, inadvertently, promote age discrimination. Sally Hollings, of Maine-Tucker Recruitment, says: "Many employers are still ageist and wouldn't consider [older applicants] at an interview for a permanent position." In other words, should agencies be forced to cut back on temp-to-permanent opportunities, they still can't stem the tide of employer prejudice. May I suggest that employment agency staff stop asking temps and permanent applicants their age when they register?

The Government's reforms intend to equalise the distribution of power between temps, the recruitment industry and organisations. If individual employment agencies are restricted from charging organisations "temp-to- perm fees" they will no longer restrict labour mobility for temps wishing to work for firms other agencies introduced them to; and smaller to medium- sized organisations will be better placed to offer temps stable employment opportunities.

That way everyone can live happily ever after.