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MPs debate agency nurse rights

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Agency nurses could gain employment rights from the first day of placements under a bill to be debated in parliament.

The private member’s bill includes proposals originally mooted in the European Agency Workers Directive, which has been debated in Brussels for years but is yet to be implemented.

Although rarely passed, private member’s bills are often used to raise awareness about issues and sometimes incorporated into government bills. If the proposals do become law, agency nurses would have the right to compare themselves with full-time staff doing a similar job.

Although most agency nurses receive higher pay than their permanent colleagues, the bill would open the door for legal challenges to trusts on employment rights such as holiday pay, unfair dismissal and pension rights.

Sarah Veale, head of equality and employment rights at the TUC, said: ‘It means that anything that a permanently employed nurse gets, such as maternity pay, the agency nurse would then have that.’

Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing, told NT she supported the bill. ‘There is no consistency in employment practices – [agency nurses] don’t get the same annual leave as they do under Agenda for Change,’ she said.

But Anne Fairweather, head of public policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the recruitment agency trade body, warned the measures might damage the agency market. ‘We are concerned the proposals will slow up the system with bureaucracy. Hospitals may be less likely to get agency cover and may not get the work done at all,’ she said.

The bill has been proposed by Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston in Cheshire. It will be debated by the Commons later this month.

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