`Temps' given chance to have a mortgage

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The Independent Online
Manpower, Britain's largest "temp" agency, is to launch a mortgage scheme next month to attract workers who would not normally be able to persuade a lender to give them a mortgage.

Up to 20,000 people who have been with Manpower for more than a year will be eligible for the scheme which is being jointly run with National Westminster Bank. A pension scheme will be launched later this year.

Manpower's chairman, Lilian Bennett, said yesterday that the financial system had lagged behind the rapid growth in the number of flexible workers, who now account for 12 per cent of Britain's workforce compared with less than 1 per cent 20 years ago.

Mrs Bennett is concerned about other dangers in the growth of the flexible workforce. "Employers do not see the need to pay benefits and give temporary staff the same rights as their core employees, but they are also a critical part of the workforce," she said.

The move came as Tony Blair said the Conservatives would be punished for the "rampant insecurity" afflicting the UK at the general election. The Labour leader, who plans to make job insecurity a central issue in the election campaign, said the country had entered a "new age of anxiety".

His statement came as Labour prepared to launch a consultation paper on Thursday in which David Blunkett, the party's education and employment spokesman, will formally drop the party's policy of a compulsory training levy on companies - attacked by the Tories as a "tax on jobs".

The paper is expected to float a plan for employers who match employees' contributions to individual save-as-you-earn training accounts to get preferential treatment in the awarding of government contracts.

Labour has decided to drop its previous policy that would have forced large employers to provide in-service training or face payment of a levy.

Gordon Brown, the Shadow Chancellor, yesterday confirmed that Labour was considering a new tax relief for people who pay for their own retraining. But he also wants to provide a "carrot" to induce employers to provide, or encourage, training.

Mr Blair published a dossier of statistics on the trend away from secure full-time permanent jobs to insecure, part-time and temporary work, designed to draw attention to growing job insecurity.

Ministers' attempts to promote a "feel-good factor" were undermined yesterday when the state-backed conciliation service reported widespread and growing fears over job security. In its annual report published yesterday, Acas, the employment advisory service, said that despite an economic upturn the goal of high morale in the workforce was proving "elusive".

The organisation dealt with a record 91,500 cases involving complaints by individuals that their employment rights had been flouted - up 15 per cent on the previous year.

The biggest rise was among allegations of breaches of employment contract. Although Acas took over responsibility for such cases just 18 months ago, they now form 17 per cent of the total caseload. John Hougham, chairman of Acas, said there were a number of reasons for the increase in cases involving job security, including the fact that people had also become more aware of their rights.