Ethics - Where we stand
There is hardly an agency around that will not boast of how well it treats its temporary staff. They are, after all, the lifeblood of every agency. Behind the boasts, however, lies the undeniable fact that a substantial majority of agencies exploit their workers in order to maximise profits and reduce prices.
Behind the extravagant claims of the benefits that accrue to temps when they work for an agency there is often a commercial imperative at work which denies temps their basic rights and squeezes every last penny from their wage packet.
Sheltering behind the reality that most temps entering the world of unskilled, temporary work are just keen to find work and are unlikely to be aware of their entitlements, the smoke and mirrors approach that so many companies adopt – encouraged by flabby legislation, ineffective enforcement and the knowledge that most temps do not have the resources to engage in legal challenges – tarnishes the reputation of the recruitment industry and those that work within it. It also exposes end users to reputational risk that can be devastating.
The current and previous governments have moved at a scarcely credible pace to address these serious issues. It took HMRC nearly a decade to successfully pursue their case against Reed Employment for wrongful use of an expenses scheme. The £158 million liability payable to HMRC illustrates just how profitable the shadow world can be. There does, at last, appear to be positive action, with the government announcing in October 2016, an enquiry into worker status and working practices as well as setting up an Employment Status and Intermediaries Team, which will address these issues, amongst others.
At Extraman, we do not follow the herd. Our success derives from scrupulous observance of all entitlements, partly because it is the only way we wish to run our company, and also because we believe that the benefits that our clients derive from a well treated and contented workforce far outweigh the price advantages that can be gained by those that operate on the margins of compliance.
But how do our clients and temporary workers know that we do not follow the crowd? Can we prove our claims?
Yes. By being accountable to all the following guarantees, all of which are open to audit by our customers:
- Holiday pay. At 12.07% added to basic earnings for all agency staff, holiday pay amounts to a considerable amount of money, both for individual temps and also for the agency who is responsible for paying it. Many agencies elect to withhold or reduce what is due, or intentionally leave temps unaware of what they are owed. Two respected industry sources have calculated that only 30% of holiday entitlement is ever paid. Extraman is the ONLY agency of which we are aware, that prints accumulated holiday pay on every payslip, so that every temp is aware of exactly what they are due. Furthermore, we allow our workforce to carry forward holiday pay from one year to another so that they never lose their entitlements.
- Many agencies operate “Personal Accident Insurance Schemes”. To participate, temps pay a weekly fee. Every example we have seen demands a premium from the temp (which the agency pockets) far in excess of what would be realistic for policies which pay extremely humble benefits. Typically, an individual will be charged £125 per annum for a policy which costs the agency no more than £5 per annum. While all of these schemes are “optional” temps may find themselves overlooked for work if they do not opt in. Extraman does not operate such schemes.
- Tax avoidance schemes are rife within the recruitment sector. They deprive HMRC of due revenue and, more often than not, place the temporary worker in a position where he or she misses out on tax rebates because little or no tax has been paid. We have also seen cases where HMRC has chased workers for unpaid tax, having been unaware that their agencies had deemed them to be self-employed. Self employment also allows agencies to ignore the minimum wage, ignore holiday pay and avoid Employers' National Insurance. Often these arrangements are facilitated by the use of "umbrella companies". Extraman employs all temporary workers directly and all are subject to PAYE.
- The Agency Workers Regulations were introduced in November 2011 with the aim of ensuring that temps who work with a client for more than 12 weeks are entitled to receive the same pay as if they were a comparative full time employee. Unwisely, those framing the regulations allowed an “opt out” known as the “Swedish Derogation”. This allowed for temps who were employed under specific contracts of employment to be excluded from the equal pay provisions, provided that they are, instead, paid by the agency when they are “between assignments”. We now see examples of temps being issued with contracts of employment which are so cannily worded that there is no chance that they will ever be paid between assignments, but they have still, often unwittingly, forfeited their right to equal pay. Extraman does not operate the “Swedish Derogation”.
We believe we are the ONLY
agency that can offer every one of these guarantees. They form part of a more extensive list of ethical guarantees available to all customers.
Extraman has campaigned vigorously to expose the exploitation that is rife within the recruitment industry. Our "News" section (05/05/15) contains a television interview with our MD, explaining how various agency scams work and how lawless the recruitment industry has become. More recently, he wrote an article in The Guardian, also available under "News" (08/05/17) on a similar theme.
The case for using a recruiter whose ethics can be guaranteed has become ever more essential; the reputation and share price of Sports Direct in 2016 have been hammered by revelations about workplace practices. Asos, Boohoo and JD Sports have also been the subjects of adverse media scrutiny. Many more companies who rely heavily on recruitment agencies to supply their workforce are also likely to be exposed where they have chosen agencies which circumvent both the rules and ethical considerations.
Extraman directors are instantly accessible to all customers and all temps. In the extremely unusual instance of a dispute, our response will be instant. We do not hide behind third parties, we do not pass the buck and we do not avoid confronting difficulties. We are accountable for everything we do, and everything we do is 100% compliant and ethical. And, yes, we can prove it.