Agency-PCG tiff is resolved

Computer People has expressed regret over a "poorly worded document" that sparked a row with the Professional Contractors Group...

Computer People has expressed regret over a "poorly worded document" that sparked a row with the Professional Contractors Group (PCG), and led to the agency being formally investigated by industry body, ATSCo.

The document, a four-page brief entitled 'Managing the risk of direct contractors', was produced by the agency in January to answer, it claimed, a specific client query about the European Working Time Directive legislation.

However, the PCG said it believed the brief was in fact part of a mail shot designed by the agency to put clients off hiring contractors directly, and accused Computer People of capitalising on the confusion created by IR35 for its own commercial gain.

A formal complaint was then lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority and ATSCo asked to investigate.

"The whole thing really was blown out of proportion," says Peter Searle, managing director of Computer People, now. "Although I can understand why the PCG picked up on it - the wording was poor and the intention of the brief possibly confusing, but it was sent as best advice to a customer in response to a specific query, and had nothing to do with IR35 at all."

Following an enquiry, Michael Trenchard, an independent non-executive director of ATSCo, last week announced the association had found Computer People's document to be legal and factually correct. He said he believed it was "reasonable" for agencies to try and obtain new work by pointing out the advantages of using their services, but warned against badly written documents that could be "misconstrued". "We do not think that Computer People have infringed the ATSCo code of conduct, but feel that the document in question could have been much more clearly written," Trenchard explained.

Commenting on the findings, Searle adds: "I'm in support of everything the PCG does - they're an important organisation for contractors and our greatest disappointment has been the misunderstandings that have occurred."

At the time of going to press, the PCG had not received notification of ATSCo's findings, but its press officer, Susie Hughes, said the group still believed the document was misleading.

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