agency workers

According to Resolution Foundation research, the number of agency workers is set to reach one million by 2020 if current growth trends continue.

Describing agency workers as “the forgotten face” in the debate around insecure work, the think tank estimates a full-time agency worker gets £430 less than an employee in the same role.

The current number of 865,000 has grown by 30% since 2011, it said.

Workers’ rights have been heavily debated recently, with particular reference to zero hour workers. Perhaps agency workers have become the “forgotten face” as described above and the above survey is useful to remind employers that agency workers are still a prominent feature of today’s workforce and in turn the rights that agency workers have.

Do you use Agency Workers?

Most employers will have used agency workers as an additional labour resource at some point, whether this was to cover annual leave, long-term sickness absence, staff shortages, peak periods, a particular project or simply to deal with a general increase in work.

Are you aware of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (Regulations)?

The Regulations apply to agency workers who are assigned to do temporary work for hirers through temporary work agencies. It will be for tribunals to determine any dispute about whether a particular arrangement falls within the scope of the Regulations.

The Regulations give agency workers the right to equal treatment in relation to pay, holidays and other basic working and employment conditions that they would have been entitled to had they been recruited directly by the hirer, after a 12 week qualifying period.

The rights on pay apply not just to the basic hourly rate but to all pay for work done, including; bonuses, holiday pay, unsociable hours’ payments and risk payments that are directly related to the performance of the agency worker personally. However, they do not extend to some of the wider benefits that permanent staff can enjoy in the context of their longer-term relationship with their employer, such as; occupational pensions, enhanced maternity pay, redundancy payments, notice pay, any bonus or incentives not attributable to the amount or quality of the work done by the agency worker and enhanced sick pay.

Agency workers also have a statutory right to paid time off during working hours “for the purpose of receiving antenatal care”, once they have completed their 12-week qualification period, and provided they fulfil certain eligibility criteria.

In addition, from the first day of their assignment, a hirer must ensure that all its agency workers are provided with:

  • Information about the hirer’s internal vacancies to give them the same opportunity as other workers to find permanent employment.
  • Equal access to on-site facilities such as; child care, food and drinks machines, mother and baby rooms, toilets, showers and transport services.

The day one rights outlined above are the responsibility of the hirer (the company using the worker) not the agency. The agency worker can take a Tribunal claim directly against the hirer and any award is made against the hirer, not the agency.

Employment Tribunals have jurisdiction to hear complaints from agency workers who consider their rights have been breached, or that they have suffered a detriment for asserting their rights, subject to a time limit of three months from the date of alleged breach or detriment.

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