Impact of training on people’s employability
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National initiatives and company best practices
In Austria, the social partners negotiated the Hiring-out of Labour Act (1998) to regulate this form of employment. Temporary agency work is promoted as a means of re-integrating unemployed people into the labour market. For this purpose, several non-profit work agencies were established by community bodies, in cooperation with the labour market service. These non-profit work agencies offer training courses and skills development to their employees. To user companies, they offer the chance to test candidates by means of a temporary agency work contract. The rate of reintegration into a permanent employment ranges from 45% to 52%.
The national report for Austria describes the case of Flexwork - one of the largest of the non-profit temporary work agencies - as a best practice example for training initiatives and competence development. Flexwork is part of WAFF (Wiener ArbeitnehmerInnen Förderungs Fonds), a Fund set up by the social partners (Community of Vienna, Chamber of Labour, Austrian Trade Union Federation, Vienna Economic Chamber, Public Employment Service). Flexwork tries to combine temporary agency work with social responsibility, by integrating unemployed people into employment (with a special focus on long-term unemployed and older unemployed people, who make up 50% of Flexwork’s employees).
Flexwork’s results for 1997-2004 were as follows: 3,679 unemployed persons were employed by Flexwork. Some 1,531 of them moved on to a permanent contract in another company. By the end of 2004, Flexwork still employed 321 temporary agency workers. In 2004, the agency invested €37,064 in training activities in different fields (foreign languages, IT courses, technical and electronic courses) for 80 participants. Training courses were offered in advance of the job assignment, as well as during employment intervals between two assignments, to further improve skills. The combination of support for training, competence development and temporary agency work aims at increasing the chances of reintegration into the regular labour market and strengthening employability.
In the Czech Republic, an amendment of the Labour Code no. 46/2004 Coll., which took effect on 1 March 2004, is intended to prevent repeated signing of fixed-term contracts with the same employee. The maximum total duration of successive fixed-term employment contracts is two years.
Temporary agency work is affected by the new Employment Act no. 435/2004 Coll., applicable since 1 October 2004. The amendment of Labour Code no. 436/2004 Coll., which also took effect in October, specifies the conditions under which it is possible to perform temporary agency work. Unlike previous amendments, only work agencies, i.e. organisations established and licensed to broker work, are able to hire out employees to client companies.
The relationship between the state’s social policy and new work forms is defined in the National Action Plan for Employment for 2004-2006. It states that the social partners should strive to incorporate all legally admissible forms of flexible work into collective agreements.
The national report for Estonia suggests that the reason for the relatively low level of temporary agency work in this country could be that employers use other means to achieve flexibility in employment relationships, and also that many firms may not even be aware of the possibility of such arrangements. Current labour legislation does not limit the use of temporary agency contracts in any way.
Mainly due to the high educational level of fixed-term contract holders in Finland, there is little discussion regarding a lack of training for this group. In the past decade, however, there has been some debate, particularly focusing on very short fixed-term employment relationships, due to the strong growth of such contracts.
In France, the social partners of the temporary work sector set up the first element of a specific vocational training system for temporary workers. The key points of the national agreement of 9 June 1983 were:
- to establish an appropriate body - Organisme paritaire collecteur agreé (OPCA) - for the sector (FAF-TT: Fond d’Assurance Formation - Travail Temporaire),
- to define a status for the temporary worker in training: during training, temporary workers have a contract that guarantees them a status and an income, generally based on the one received before the training.
Since then, vocational training has taken up a great part of the collective negotiations in the sector (more than one quarter of the national agreements concluded in the sector deal with this issue). Rather than adapting the existing systems to temporary work, the social partners have defined specific training modalities. Agreements give temporary agency workers access to some industry qualifications. Other agreements provide training for people who face difficulties in integrating into work life. These negotiations have been strongly supported by the government through the extension of agreements and legislation.
Training in the framework of the training plan is usually of short duration, and mainly aimed at adaptation (or re-adaptation) to the job. An agreement from 2000 stipulated that such training can also take place within the user companies. However, the trainers must be authorised by the FAF-TT and the training cannot take place while on-the-job. SETT, the confederation of the temporary work sector companies, estimates that 220,000 training activities were conducted in 2001 within this framework, amounting to an investment of €143 million.
The French report explains that temporary work agencies have invested in training as a means towards developing the sector. The large and medium-sized agencies have developed a strong network of training centres. This reflects a new direction for temporary agency work, spurred on by two factors:
- user companies frequently demand workers with qualifications that will enable them to operate in a function on a short-term basis;
- temporary work agencies are trying to evolve their traditional activity to develop into a global human resources management consulting service.
Germany experienced a rapid liberalisation in the legal and institutional operation of temporary agency employment with the revision of the Temporary Employment Act (Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz- AÜG). From 2004, restrictions on temporary agency work have been abolished regarding the time limit of assignments up to 24 months, as is the ban on re-employment and synchronisation, formerly laid down in the Temporary Agency Act. At the same time, the equal pay and equal treatment principle has been implemented. This requires the same pay and employment condition for temporary agency workers that apply to permanent staff in the user company.
In 2002, the so-called Hartz-Commission (named after the head of the Commission, the Labour Director of Volkswagen) proposed the introduction of so-called Personnel Service Agencies (PSA) - 81Kb pdf; in German), functioning along the same principles as temporary work agencies. The concept provides for the establishment of a PSA at any employment office. The task is to employ unemployed people, with the aim of bringing them into employment in user companies. Contracts for the operation of a PSA are given to registered temporary work agencies. Collective agreements for temporary agency workers have to be observed.
An analysis of the operation of the PSA scheme has been published by the IAB in two studies. The first report (230Kb pdf; in German) investigates its implementation. The second report (185Kb pdf; in German) looks at the first experiences and the profile of employees. Parallels to traditional agency workers, as well as differences, are highlighted. PSAs tend to place their agency workers predominantly in the processing industry as unskilled workers. Service occupations are relatively rare. Almost 36,000 unemployed people had been contracted between April and October 2003, and 9,000 left the PSA.
The revised Temporary Employment Act only allows deviation from the equal pay and equal treatment principle on the basis of collective agreements. This resulted in negotiations of collective agreements for the temporary agency work sector, at the particular initiative of the employers. In February 2003, the Federal Association of Temporary Employment Agencies (BZA), and representatives of all trade unions affiliated to the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB), signed a landmark agreement laying the cornerstone for a number of national cross-sector collective agreements (DE0303202N). The agreements do not include any provisions on training measures.
With the Law on Part-time and Fixed-term Work (23Kb pdf; in German), which came into effect on 1 January 2001, the EU Directive on fixed-term work (Council Directive 1999/70/EC - 578Kb pdf) was implemented in German legislation. The law led to a modification of the legal basis of fixed-term work. The law stipulates that a fixed-term contract requires an objective justification if it is to be extended for more than two years. An exception applies to employees older than 58 years. For this group, no restrictions are in place with regard to justifying the contract duration.
In Italy, temporary agency work was introduced in 1997. The 2003 reform of the labour market (the so-called Legge Biagi ) set aside most constraints. The main specific measures in favour of training for fixed-term or temporary agency workers are the national-level agreements that regulate the bilateral institution, Forma.temp, which manages the 4% of the wage bill devoted to training.
Two company training examples are outlined for Italy . In the case of the Ente Bilaterale del Turismo dell’Area Veneziana (EBT-AV, Bilateral Association of Tourism in Venice), training courses are offered to permanent and non-permanent workers in the local tourism companies in order to increase their competencies.
Aprilia, a motorcycle company based close to Venice, used to offer a three-day preliminary training course to all newly hired seasonal workers. A 2001 informal agreement with the works council set out that the company could use agency workers on a two-week contract, in order to provide preliminary training, both external and on-the-job, with the aim of recruiting them as fixed-term seasonal workers with priority rights: to employment in the following years, and then to permanent jobs.
A relevant issue in the Netherlands is that temporary work agencies are concentrating on improving their image and promoting themselves as good employers. The agencies emphasise that they act according to the Law on Temporary Agency Work and provide their workers with good employment conditions (including training). One of the quality aspects promoted is the fact that they make use of appropriately skilled workers.
The temporary agencies have also become involved in the re-entry of unemployed or disabled people into the labour market.
In accordance with the National Action Plan for Employment in Portugal, the Government began revising the legal provisions on temporary agency work in 2004. The amendment should facilitate the use of temporary agency work by companies, and improve the situation for temporary agency workers with the aim of promoting the quality of employment. In June 2004, a report on the legislation surrounding temporary work was presented by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, to be discussed by the social partners (within the Permanent Committee of Social Dialogue - Comissão Permanente de Concertação Social ). This legislative project includes a specific article aimed at professional training (article 43), obliging temporary work agencies to provide professional training for temporary agency workers whose contract period exceeds three months, or for those whose fixed-term contract periods equal, altogether, three months in one year. It also sets out the requirement to provide a minimum of eight hours of professional training for the worker.
In Spain, the National Collective Agreements of Temporary Work Agencies focus on the equal treatment of temporary agency workers. An additional 0.25% of the wage bill for OHS training was introduced.
In Sweden, legislation on temporary agency work changed completely in 1993. The deregulation led to an expansion of temporary agency work, although its share in the labour market is still low. The national report finds a contradiction between the changes regarding temporary agency work, and corresponding regulations, and the increasing number of employees concerned who see their specific needs, such as training, disregarded in official policies and legislation.
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