Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The silent scandal of "PBA" contracts

It's now three years since I blogged about the Swedish Derogation

I wondered then how many "PBA" contracts there were. 

In 2014 the government decided it also wanted to know.  The government has surveyed 3000 Agencies to find out, but only 129 responded.

Estimates vary as to how many Agency workers there are in total.  There are at least 1.3m in the UK, most of them doing a permanent job.

Within my own patch, I would say that perhaps 20% of Agency workers are "PBA's".  If I'm right, that roughly means we are talking about more than 300,000 people nationally. It's a scandal that hardly anybody knows about.

So what are "PBA" contracts, and why are they used?

Well, the Agency Worker Regulations ensure that Agency workers get the same pay as perms after twelve continuous weeks on the "placement".   But a PBA contract is a loophole allowing an employer to pay the worker less than the perm.

The disadvantage for the employers are that the PBA worker becomes an employee of the Agency, and has better employment rights than the usual "contract for services" Agency worker. When work is genuinely temporary, or if a reputable employer is OK with paying Agency workers the same, then PBA contracts aren't used.

PBA contracts are used where there the role is permanent.  These contracts enable employers to pay less than the permanent workers already doing the job.  Where a role is permanent, then there should always be a "proper job", ie permanent contract. Unfortunately, PBA contracts give employers a get-out from doing the right thing.

These contracts are a clear abuse of what "temping" is supposed to be about.  PBA contracts are not about filling temporary roles with temporary people. They are filling permanent jobs with people who want permanent jobs....but with worse pay. And in the cases I've seen, it's much worse pay.

The PBA contracts only guarantee a low amount of weekly hours. This varies, although is typically around fifteen.  If there is a break in the "placement" then your full time pay goes down to half of what you are used to. Because you are employed, you have no access to benefits.   It really is dire for people in that situation.

I'm certain that many Agencies are illegally calculating holiday pay based around the fifteen hours rather than an average of the previous twelve weeks actually worked.  I don't think this has been legally tested yet, but it's a campaign I'm planning to run in a local workplace very soon.

I'm not aware of any PBA worker getting company sick pay.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm dismayed about lack of media coverage for workplace issues. Hardly anyone has heard of the "Swedish Derogation" or "the PBA's", but there's no way anyone could dismiss these issues as trivial.

PBA workers are systematically exploited.

I can think of no reputable reason why PBA contracts are needed. I can think of no reputable reason why UK law permits them to be allowed.

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