Temporary Worker Rights around the World | DCR Workforce Blog

Temporary Worker Rights around the World

By all accounts, the use of temporary workers is a growing phenomenon for many businesses around the world. The rapid growth in contingent workforce populations has caused countries including Canada, UK, China, Japan, Brazil, and Singapore to pass new legislation protecting contingent workers from exploitation at the workplace.

  • The United Kingdom enacted the Agency Worker Law to regulate employment agencies, who are currently deploying anywhere from half a million to 1.5 million agency workers annually. The law entitles a temporary agency worker to national minimum wage, paid holidays, protection under health and safety laws, and access to all shared facilities (canteen, crèche, car parking, common room, prayer room etc.). Agency workers also qualify for statutory sick pay as well as paid maternity/paternity/adoption leave but do not receive redundancy pay. After working 12 weeks at a job, the agency worker is entitled to the same compensation and benefits as a direct hire, in the same role.
  • The Canadian Labor Code regulates employment, protects wage earners, and stipulates labor standards as well as minimum wages. As Canada provides healthcare as a right of citizenship, a lack of benefits when taking up temporary work is not seen as a big issue.. Unionization is also credited with providing the necessary protection to temporary and part-time workers. However, Canada has a ‘Temporary Foreign Worker’ program. Workers who come to Canada from poorer economies cannot switch jobs and are usually sent home if they raise any concerns about their low wages, safety or working conditions.
  • In July 2013, China imposed restrictions on the use of ‘dispatch labor’ by restricting the term of such positions to 6 months or less; and also set limits on the number of dispatch workers as a percentage of the total workforce. This number is yet to be specified. China also instructs employers to ensure that dispatch workers are paid equally to full time employees. Agencies which supply Dispatch Labor are expected to obtain licenses to operate their business, or face serious penalties.
  • Brazil requires a written contract between the employment agency and its client which justifies the need for a temporary worker, specifies the salary to be paid, and restricts the term of the assignment to 3 months. If the client company applies for and receives formal permission for extension from the Ministry of Labor, the assignment may be extended to 6 months – but not beyond. Temporary workers can only be used to address seasonal demand, transitory company activities or for evaluation, before hiring full time. Part time hiring does, however, allow companies to dismiss without notice or terminate workers requesting maternity leave during the probation period.
  • In Singapore, the law does not distinguish between temporary, contract, daily-rated and tenured employees. But, when workers are engaged for less than 35 hours per week, an employer is allowed overtime pay, leave, employment benefits, annual leave encashment, maternity leave and provision of “rest days”.  These benefits are offered on a pro-rated basis.
  • Workers in Australia are protected by very strong worker unions and the National Employment Standards.  These standards form the minimum rights and conditions for everyone working full-time or part-time. Many of them also apply to contingent workers, who get 20% more than the applicable hourly rate. They specify wages, overtime rates and shift differentials, required meal and rest breaks, and special allowances for certain tasks. Australia has developed a “fair work information statement” document that  is provided to every worker to ensure that they have a written statement of their rights under federal law.  Employers who fail to provide this document as a part of the onboarding process will face penalties for breaching the National Employment Standards.
  • In India, government positions cannot be filled by temporary workers.  All government recruitments are based on tests which are open to candidates on a pan-India basis. Staffing companies in India cannot charge the workers a fee for their services. Agencies must adhere to all labor laws, including the Minimum Wages Act, and must pay temp workers all statutory employee benefits.

While each of these countries has established different regulations to govern the use of temporary workers, what they all have in common is a recognition that these workers are a significant part of their overall workforce.  We all recognize that policies are the formal expression of politics.  Politicians pass laws that will get them re-elected by their constituents.

We have shared information regarding the policies that are established.  The greater question is the political one.  Until recently many nations prohibited the use of temporary workers.  Economic conditions forced a change in policy. What does each policy say about the country’s position on their changing workforce?  Are they embracing the use of temporary workers, or trying to suppress it?   What can be concluded when a country’s laws only apply to workers who are citizens?  In a future blog, we will explore the rights of foreign temporary workers.  Until then, we welcome your thoughts.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.