Agency Workers Regulations

30 May 2018

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 were brought into force in 2011 to entitle agency workers to the same treatment and benefits as other workers.

According to data from an independent think-tank called Resolution Foundation, the number of agency workers in the UK in December 2016 sat at 865,000, which is a 30 percent increase since 2011. They predict that this figure will hit one million by 2020.

The Agency Worker Regulations help to ensure that these workers receive the same treatment and benefits and are not treated any less favourably than those employed directly.

What is an Agency Worker?

An agency worker can be defined as someone who has a contract with an agency and is sent on suitable work assignments by that agency. Agency workers are used across a range of industries, with many agencies specialising in certain sectors.

A ‘hiring organisation’ will contact an agency to request a worker for a temporary assignment and the agency will then send a suitable agency worker to fulfil the request. The hiring organisation will pay the agency for their service and the agency is responsible for paying the agency worker. So the key point to note here is that the worker is paid by the agency, not directly by the hiring organisation.

Agency work can provide flexibility to workers and it can be a good opportunity for workers to gain experience in different fields of work. However, an agency is not obliged to send an agency worker on an assignment, so agency work comes with a risk of fluctuating workload and, in turn, pay.

What do the Agency Workers Regulations Mean?

These Regulations entitle agency workers to be treated in the same way as (and no less favourably than) directly recruited members of staff. Some benefits will become available to agency workers after they have completed a qualifying period of 12 weeks in the same job, with the same agency, while other benefits will be available from day one.

Once the qualifying period has been completed, the Agency Workers Regulations require agency workers to be paid the same amount and be offered the same amount of annual leave as directly employed workers who are doing the same job.

From the first day of employment, agency workers are entitled to their basic employment rights such as the National Minimum Wage as well as access to facilities that are available to other workers, such as a canteen or childcare facilities. They should also be able to view details of any job vacancies that are available within the company.

The Regulations also entitle agency workers to the same number of rest breaks as other workers and they entitle pregnant agency workers to take paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments.

Who Is Covered by the Agency Workers Regulations?

Anyone who is working as an agency worker will be covered by these Regulations. This includes anyone who is employed through a temp agency as well as those employed through a modelling or entertainment agency, for example.

All agency workers are covered by the Agency Workers Regulations, even if they only work a few hours per week. The same entitlements will come into effect after 12 weeks of continual employment for agency workers who only work part-time.

If you use a recruitment agency to find permanent or fixed-term employment then you may not be covered under the Agency Workers Regulations if you are employed directly. It’s a good idea to check with the recruitment agency or the organisation you work for if you are unsure.

Similarly, if you use an agency to find work but you work for yourself then you would not be classed as an agency worker. In this instance you may be self-employed.

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