Agency Worker Regulations

26th August 2016
Catherine Vickery

If you’re one of the 1.3 million people in the UK that are estimated to be agency workers, your rights as an employee will be very important to you. While the Working Time Directive primarily focuses on the protection of so called permanent staff, agency worker rights are protected by their own set of regulations.

The Principle of Equal Treatment

From the moment that you arrive for work on your first day as an agency employee, you have certain rights as a worker.

These rights are exactly the same as those given to permanent colleagues, such as:

  • Access to the canteen, other food dispensers and drinks machines
  • If available, access to a workplace crèche
  • Use of car parking or other transport facilities

After 12 weeks you qualify for the same employment rights as someone employed directly by the company, this that is known as ‘equal treatment’.

These rights are significant and include:

  • Being paid the same amount of money as a permanent employee doing the same job would be paid
  • Automatic right to enroll in any company pension scheme
  • Paid annual holidays

The 12 week qualifying period starts on your first day on the job. It doesn’t mean that you have to work 12 weeks straight, just that you need to do 12 weeks work before you become eligible.

Some things won’t count towards the 12 weeks:

  • Sick days
  • Agreed annual holiday
  • Days where the workplace is closed, for example on bank holidays
  • Jury service

However, your 12 week qualifying period will continue if you’re absent due to pregnancy, adoption leave or paternity leave.

What if I change jobs?

If you change jobs at the same employer and the work is basically the same, you do not need to repeat the 12 week qualifying period. If the work is ‘substantively different’, that is, it’s at a new location, has new hours, a different pay level, or requires new skills and training, you may have to start a new qualifying period.

If you move to a different company, even with the same agency, you will need to start a new qualifying period with that new employer.

Pay as an agency worker

During the qualifying period and beyond you are entitled to the National Minimum Wage as a minimum for all the hours that you work.

After the 12 weeks qualifying period you have the right to be paid the same amount as other permanent employees.

Rights to a contract

Your agency must give you an employment contract that should state:

  • The type of work involved
  • That you have the right to equal pay after the qualifying period
  • Pay rates and how they’re calculated
  • Your place of work
  • Your working hours

For many people, the flexibility that agency employment offers is a driver for them to seek this type of work. For others, it might be a lack of permanent opportunities, or a way back into employment after an absence.

Whatever the reasons, it’s important for your own protection to know your rights when you enter agency employment.