Hotline to report illegal temporary agencies, Netherlands
In March 2012 the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Social Affairs opened a hotline to report illegal or rogue temporary employment agencies. The hotline responds to the complaints of both the companies working with temporary employment agencies and to victims' complaints. It is part of a broad, inclusive approach, in which several ministries and the branch itself cooperate. If necessary, Interpol can be called in and an agreement has been reached with the Flemish government.
By 2012, it had become obvious that the different measures introduced on temporary agencies had not been effective. In 2011, a Lower House Commission suggested paying extra attention to temporary employment agencies which act in bad faith. In March 2012 the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Social Affairs opened a hotline to report rogue temporary agencies. The hotline is part of the Tackling Malafide Temp Agencies' policy of the AMU (Aanpak Malafide Uitzendbureau’s). In this broad approach enforcement and prosecution, reinforcing self-regulation of the sector and cooperation across the border are included.
The distinction between legal and illegal temp agencies was made possible at the end of 2011 by the European Court ruling that Member States, and therefore the Dutch Labour Inspectorate of the Ministry of Social Affairs is allowed to distinguish between situations where an employee is working directly for an employer or is being seconded through a temporary worker agency, and that it can impose heavy fines (€300,000) in cases of illegal service provision.
In 2011, almost 13,360 foreigners were registered with the body implementing employee insurance schemes (UWV), up from 9,756 in 2010. More than 60% of these foreigners originate from Bulgaria or Romania. Without a valid work permit, people from these two countries are vulnerable to illegal temporary agencies, since they may only work as self-employed individuals or be posted through a temporary agency. The number of posted Romanians and Bulgarians rose by 35% in 2011, despite the economic downturn and slump in the construction industry. The workers concerned mainly find employment in sectors like agriculture and horticulture, construction and cleaning (Lower House, LURA, 2011).
Since 2007 between 5,000 to 6,000 illegal temporary employment agencies have been established (Research Committee Dutch House of Representatives, 2011). Looking back from 2012, it is estimated that fraud takes place at 16% to 18% of the checked companies, a figure that remains stable through the years. In 2011, in the Labour Inspectorate controls, 2,030 illegal workers have been discovered in these companies ( Jaarverslag 2011 Inspectie SZW, 2012).
Research from a committee established by the Dutch House of Representatives has urged closing down illegal employment agencies exploiting eastern European workers. The committee concluded that the Netherlands underestimated how many immigrants would come when the country opened its borders to people from eastern and central Europe in 2007. Romanians and Bulgarians, the last group, did not receive a work permit. It was predicted then that people would find other ways to work in the Netherlands; and indeed the number of posted workers rose.
The hotline was introduced in March 2012 to report fraudulent temporary agencies or those working in bad faith. Heavy administrative fines can be imposed (€300,000) in cases of illegal service provision. The hotline is one of the measures in a broad policy to trace and in the end completely eradicate illegal temporary agencies.
The hotline has been introduced to identify the more open and directly rogue, or illegal temporary agencies.
According to the hotline, rogue temporary agencies are unreliable, unfair organisations, which consciously break the rules. Apart from temporary agencies, payroll-companies, money launderers, front-men and fixers are also part of the problem and a focus of the broad, inclusive government policy.
Minister of Social Affairs, Labour Inspectorate (presently Inspectorate SW, Ministry of Social Affairs); secondment agencies, the Association of Secondment Agencies, (Algemene Bond voor uitzendorganisaties), SNCU (Stichting Naleving Cao´s Uitzendbranche).
Outcome of evaluations: lessons and conclusions
It is too early to draw conclusions; it is unknown whether the hotline makes it easier to report on rogue temporary agencies and in the end makes it possible to convict them. Cooperation from the public is needed since all the measures taken so far have been insufficient in ruling out illegal practices.
Achievement of objectives
The hotline should make it easier to report illegal practices.
Obstacles and problems
Cooperation at local level and cooperation at international level are necessary to close the net around the illegal practices. The different levels of cooperation needed make the complexity of the problem clear.
Besides this, the actors concerned, the temporary agencies and posted employees who both operate illegally are not keen to cooperate. Implementation of the policy is apart from international cooperation needed from the secondment agencies, their official Association, the ABU and the SNCU. The SNCU is responsible for maintaining the collective agreements. They should assist the government in setting the norm and enforcing the rules on decent labour contracts.
No information to report.
Since the hotline has been recently introduced, in March 2012, the benefits are still unknown – there is only a rough indication of the number of agencies involved, though there is a more precise indication of the persons involved.
Since the hotline is national, transferability refers to other Member States. It is possible for the hotline, and the policy in which it is embedded, to be introduced in countries with a comparable infrastructure.
- Labour Inspectorate (presently Inspectorate SW, Ministry of Social Affairs: http://www.arbeidsinspectie.nl
- Secondment agencies: the Association of Secondment Agencies (Algemene Bond voor uitzendorganisaties, http://www.abu.nl/homepage); SNCU (Stichting Naleving Cao´s Uitzendbranche, http://www.sncu.nl/homepage).
Inspectorate SZW (2012), Jaarverslag 2011, Ministry of Social Affairs: The Hague.
Lower House, Tijdelijke commissie LURA (2011/12), Lessons out of recent Labour migration, Lessen uit recente Arbeidsmigratie (Kamerstukken II 2011/12, 32 680, nr 4.
Lower House (2011/12), Kamerstukken II 2011/12, 29 407, nr.132.
Marianne Grunell, University of Amsterdam, AIAS/HSI