New UK government legislation designed to protect temporary workers could have serious implications for web publishers, according to the UK's Association of Online Publishers (AOP).

The Employment Agencies Act became law on 6 April and includes a ban on charging upfront fees to job seekers, as well as providing more requirements on health and safety and pay.

Newspapers are exempt from the law, which is not designed to regulate publications that carry recruitment advertising. But web publishers may be liable because of the increasingly blurred boundaries between employment agencies, job-seeking services and recruitment advertising on the internet.

If job boards on web sites are covered by the Act, publishers would be required to vet temporary staff that will work with vulnerable groups, such as children or pensioners.

Sites would also need to verify qualifications and details on candidates' CVs, which would present a significant administrative burden for sites that allow job seekers to post their CVs online.

"The original Act governing employment agencies dates back to 1973, well before job boards were even thought of," said Alex White, head of the AOP.

"The Act applies to services provided by an employment agency. Originally, to ensure that the Act should not be construed as applying to publishers of advertisements, newspapers were specifically exempted.

"The trouble is that job boards are a new form of service, and it could be argued that the original Act applies to them."

The AOP has asked the Government to clarify the position of web publishers. The government is considering the issue and said it does not intend to take any action relating to job boards before it responds in the summer.

The AOP is discussing the issue with its members and will be resubmitting its concerns to the DTI.

See also:

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).