Radio 4’s Today programme suggested temporary workers are being mis-sold insurance

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is examining whether recruitment agents have been selling insurance without authorisation following an investigation by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

However, agencies contend they are merely “offering” insurance rather than selling it.

The programme’s investigation looked at whether recruitment agencies were selling insurance to temporary workers that they did not need and that the agencies did not have a licence to sell.

Agencies offer temporary workers cover for if they are too ill to work, which they can opt out of. The programme said it found examples of recruitment agencies pushing the insurance.

One agency employee told the programme that agency branches were put into league tables based on which sold the most insurance policies and that the company was looking for between 80% and 90% of their clients to be on the insurance scheme.

Lucrative

The BBC claimed that distributing the policies was lucrative for agencies. The policies sell for between £2.50 and £3 a week, but cost less than £1 to provide, according to insurance broker estimates obtained by the programme.

The fact that agencies are profiting from the business has prompted some to claim that the agencies’ distribution of the policies should be regulated.

Law firm Edwin Coe partner David Greene told Radio 4: “Our understanding is that they are receiving remuneration for it. So I think it is being used as business and we have taken that up with the FCA.”

FCA insurance head Simon Green told the programme: “Generally speaking, only firms that are authorised by the FCA should be doing regulated business. Selling or arranging insurance is a regulated activity. One of the things we will be looking into will be the role that the agencies have been playing in this and whether that actually constitutes regulated activity.”

Rip-off

Some of the programme’s sources also claimed that the temporary workers did not need the policies because they would be covered under employer’s liability contracts for any illness.

Trades Union Congress policy director Sarah Veale said: “To get the employee to insure themselves as well is completely unnecessary. It’s a rip-off.”

Agency response

Recruitment agencies told the BBC that they do not actively sell the policies. A representative agency response given to the BBC stated: “It is important to stress that this insurance is offered, not sold. Our consultants are fully trained and regulated in line with the FCA’s guidelines.”

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