Understanding the term “Agency Workers”
Under the employment law, the definition of “agency worker” is established through payment. If an individual is paid by the agency, he or she is regarded as an agency worker. Also known as ‘temps’, agency workers enjoy most of the same rights as fixed-term or permanent workers. However, they are not likely to receive the same number of employment benefits as those individuals who are directly employed by an organisation.
Furthermore, agency workers have either a ‘contract of service’ or a written ‘contract of employment’ between the recruiter finding them job roles and themselves. On the other hand, agencies are not entitled by the employment law to charge any fees from job seekers for finding them work opportunities (except for those working in the modelling and entertainment industries). Rather, they may charge for related services like training or CV writing.
Temporary Employment Rights
First, temporary workers can expect fair treatment at work, despite not having the full gamut of employment rights, same as the permanent employees. Temporary workers also receive paid holiday, reasonable working hours, regular breaks and get paid in line with the National Minimum Wage. Furthermore, such workers are protected from discrimination at work by equality laws, along with health and safety regulations.
Equal Treatment after 12 Weeks
Once you have completed 12 weeks in one particular job role as a temporary worker, you may well qualify to be treated at par with any permanent worker employed in a similar role. This implies that you would be able to receive the same working time expectations, pay agreements and annual leaves as a peer, permanent worker. This entitlement is not affected by the fact that your work is part-time or full-time.
Having said that, any irregularities in employment may affect your entitlement to these work rights. If the break from employment exceeds 6 weeks between roles with one particular company, or you end up with a job role, which is significantly different from your previous one, the duration of your work with the company, for which you are considered engaged, resets to zero.
There are, however, some instances wherein some situations mean a ‘pause’ instead of a ‘break’ in your entitlement. Usually, the amount of time for which you are considered to have been working with your company stops during these periods. When you begin to work again with the same employee, the time resumes again. In general, this happens when you take a break from work for 6 weeks or less (or up to 28 weeks, in case you receive an injury or are suffering from illness), the workplace has temporarily closed or you avail holiday time.
If situations, wherein you take time off due to pregnancy, take adoption or paternity leave or need leave within 26 weeks of giving birth, the hirers will essentially consider you to be still working with them. This period will be later added to the time period when you worked for the employer.
The employment law in the UK entitles temporary workers to be paid the National Minimum Wage at a minimum, same as any other category of workers. Furthermore, a worker is entitled to be paid for all worked hours by the agency, irrespective of whether the timesheet had been completed. The agency, however, may delay the payment while conducting an investigation into whether the agency worker actually worked the hours. This investigation needs to be concluded within a reasonable time period.
If the agency has not received the wages by the hirers for a service provided, the worker would still be entitled to the agreed payment amount.
Terms of Employment
An agency has a legal obligation to set out the terms of employment in writing before they begin seeking roles for you. In general, these terms must include:
- relevant pay details;
- a notice period;
- details of employment (whether you are under a contract for services or contract of employment);
- leave and holiday entitlement;
In case, the worker agrees to any changes that are included by the agency in the terms of employment, a new document, comprising full details of the amendments must be drafted and signed by both the worker and the agency.
Agencies must always provide the basic information related to employment to an individual, once he or she commences work in a job role. These points of information must include:
- hourly rate or salary;
- commencing date;
- an approximation date of termination of the job;
- working hours, with details of flexible working (if any);
- person specification for the role;
- details regarding duties;
- health and safety risks and controls;
- any expenses to be incurred;
The company that hires the worker through an agency is responsible to pay a fee to the agency, which covers the recruitment and wage charges. Subsequently, the agency uses the received money to pay the workers themselves. While agency workers receive a number of benefits including an opportunity to sample various jobs and flexibility of scheduling, more important work rights that are availed by permanent employees like unfair dismissal compensation or redundancy pay are off-limits to agency workers.