Agencies Use Contractor Spies
You may have been a victim of contractor spies without knowing it.
Ever wonder why some agencies don‘t want to know you? That’s even when you‘re perfect for a job for which they‘ve advertised. It could be that someone you work with is ‘doing the dirty on you‘.
Some agencies are circumventing the laws governing references by getting contractors to snoop on other contractors.
They have a number of ‘patsies‘ at various sites that they can call up whenever they are thinking of sending out someone new for an interview. These contractors are usually ready to croak, for a bit of flattery, about ex- or current colleagues. The prognosis is often not good, especially for someone that they don‘t like.
This helps agencies circumvent the law where employers can’t give a bad reference. They can only give a good reference or no reference at all. Although contractors are not employees, companies tend to have a policy about these things.
Common Practice Amongst Agencies
Asking contractors about other contractors is fairly common practice. Quite a sizeable number of long term contractors would have come across it.
Agencies have asked me several times in my career for information about other contractors. I‘ve tended to be either positive about them or been fairly non-committal about contractors that I didn‘t rate. I say that they seem all right, but that I didn‘t work closely with them.
I did almost succumb temptation once, when asked for a reference about a contractor that I despised. However, I resisted the temptation to ‘shaft‘ him. I suspect that others take the opportunity to take revenge on those that they don‘t like, though’.
Tip Off from Friendly Contractors
Another contractor said that the contractors that agencies usually use for this are ones who get fees from agencies either for supplying them with contractors who get jobs through the agencies, or for tipping the agencies off when their company are looking for contractors.
The contractors want to keep this relationship going and are happy to supply information on fellow contractors when requested.
It would be interesting to see what the legal position of the site ‘patsies‘ would be if someone discovered that they were giving bad references to fellow contractors.
Whether or not they would fall under the legislation as regards giving references is unlikely. However, they could certainly be candidates for suing for libel.
If their opinion costs a fellow contractor a 6-month contract, they may well find themselves paying up the full value of the contract plus damages, if anyone ever ‘spills the beans‘ about their activities.
If they‘re doing it regularly, several people could sue them. That’s especially if those people find out that while they were sitting at home, with the mortgage unpaid and the wife threatening to leave with the kids, that their enforced absence was due to the opinion of one of their own number.
Contractor Spies – Nothing Wrong Say Agencies
Several agencies contacted said that they saw nothing wrong with this practice. It provided a better service to clients. Others suggested that there should be a widely used database of contractors who have let customers or other agencies down, so that they didn‘t need to use this practice.
One agency said, ‘Employers have become so afraid of laws in this area that they give everybody a good reference, whereas the contractors that we ask tend to ‘sing like canaries‘ about other contractors’.
‘Information obtained this way is far more likely to be correct, and far more valuable to us. You have to be careful who you ask, though. It is best to ask those with whom you‘ve had a good past relationship’
Says a spokesman for ITContractor.com, ‘These guys who regularly pass on opinions on their peers to ‘friendly‘ agencies, probably don‘t realise the legal position that they might be putting themselves into, when they try to do a ‘mate‘ a favour, or try to curry favour with particular agencies.
Agencies should advise their contractor ‘plants‘ about their legal position when they try to solicit back-door information from them about fellow contractors’.
Contractor spies are not to be encouraged.
For good information about the contractor job market click on Job Market News and Advice.
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