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Recruiters bite back in staff poaching row

Agencies question validity of consulting engineers’ report given poor response

The association for Consultancy and Engineering has been challenged by the recruitment industry to provide evidence of poaching by recruitment consultants.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation has called for talks after the ACE published a scathing report on the conduct of recruitment agencies.

More than 60 per cent of respondents to the association’s Skills Shortages and Recruitment Agency Behaviours report said agencies tapped-up staff they had previously placed.

One in four said agencies’ service was ‘poor’ compared with 18 per cent who said it was ‘good’.
One respondent said: “Poaching of staff is common. Agencies take staff from one firm then try to fill the same role, with no remorse.”

But Hays Consulting Engineering managing director Tim Cook said: “At Hays, it is a disciplinary offence for consultants to poach staff they have placed.

“If it does happen, it is almost always a result of the individual contacting the agency again, with legitimate reasons for a move, although this is unlikely to be the reason given.”

Hays and another firm, Matchtech, were suspended from ACE affiliate membership earlier this year ahead of its review into recruitment firms.

Mr Cook said: “Following the release of the HR review, we have not yet been approached by the ACE.” An ACE spokesman said there are no plans yet to renew the affiliate memberships.

But recruitment firms have also questioned the validity of the findings after the ACE admitted only a quarter of its membership – 26 firms – bothered to reply.

An REC spokesman said: “If only one in four firms replied, it would suggest the other firms thought nothing was wrong. We want to see evidence of staff being tapped-up.”

But the consultants’ body said enough had sent back questionnaires to make the survey worthwhile. The ACE spokesman added: “It’s an accurate summary of responses we have been receiving from our members over the past 18 months.

“We are very happy with this response and think it is an accurate cross-section.”

The ACE is going to the USA to learn from recruitment practices overseas.