Recruitment agency Hays PLC is at the centre of a rather embarrassing furore that may have some potentially large repercussions in the industry.
An e-mail sent accidentally showing details of some 3,000 Hays contractors currently working at the Royal Bank of Scotland was inadvertently sent to 800 RBS staff.
The e-mail contained details of rates of pay for contractors working for the bank and threatens to become one of the biggest corporate leaks of recent years.
The news raises questions as to the security levels and measures of Hays and is certainly a blemish on their reputation and business credentials. The company has launched an internal investigation to see how the mistake occurred and is stressing that no bank details or national insurance numbers were released, but that names and rates of pay had been.
The break of trust between the company and its contractors is what is of the greatest concern to the recruitment agency however, and Hays is unlikely to recover quickly from this ignominious episode.
The original e-mail was intended to remind managers to pay the contractors before the August bank holiday, attached to which the pay rates of some 300 staff were stated.
The leak may also prove costly for the Royal Bank of Scotland, as the high levels of pay the leaked contractors were receiving has been the cause of much controversy as well. The high rates of pay at a bank that is in the majority owned by the state have been deemed by ‘unacceptable’ in a time of economic recovery by the Unite Union which represents many workers and contractors.
The Royal Bank of Scotland has recently been forced to make a large number of redundancies, something that has caused much controversy in the industry. A national representative for the Unite union is quoted to have said that ‘Unite has serious concerns about the widespread use of highly-paid staff on short term contracts at a time when RBS continues to cut large numbers of staff’.
However, RBS has been quick to defend itself, citing that the slander of the Unite Union is unneeded and illogical. Deputy-chairman of the Professional Contractors Group (PCG), James Collings, has said that the attack ‘displays a fundamental lack of understanding of the business relationship between contractors and their clients’, with Collings citing reasons such as the lack of benefits received by contracted staff as flaws in Unite’s argument.
Others in the industry have said that contractors and permanent staff in fact cost companies a similar amount, and that despite lower wages on the face of things, paid leave, healthcare and pensions amount to a large amount of money being spent on permanent staff.
Mr Collings has called for the Unite Union to focus more on the well-being of its members rather than ‘trying to discredit, demean and degrade the freelance community’. However the fact remains that this episode is not only very embarrassing for all concerned, but may well have a significant impact on their respective business prospects in the coming months.