Agency workers (often referred to as “temps”) are hired from employment businesses (known as agencies) who supply them on assignments to work for a company. The worker will be under a contract with the agency. The company will pay the agency a fee and in turn the agency pays the worker’s wages.
The company may also use employment agencies which introduce work-seekers to the company for direct employment. In this case the worker or more likely employee will be under a contract with the company not the employment agency.
You should make sure you know which one of the above you fall under before signing any contract so you are clear as to your employment status and therefore your employment rights. Employees have more employment rights than agency workers.
What are your employment rights as an agency worker?
As an agency worker you are entitled to certain statutory rights from the start. These include a right to a national minimum wage (currently £5.52 per hour for adults aged 22 or over), to annual leave, rest breaks, limits on working time and the right not to be discriminated against.
There are other statutory rights but they require particular qualifying criteria to be met. These include the right to statutory sick pay and maternity and paternity pay.
In addition to this agency workers will soon have the right to be offered the same pay and holiday entitlement as the employees who work at the company once they have acquired 12 weeks continuous employment. This is not however due to come into force until this autumn.
Are you entitled to the same benefits as employees?
Agency workers do not often get the same benefits as employees. These may include more holiday entitlement, subsidised gym membership or luncheon vouchers. You should first check your agency contract to see what benefits you are contractually entitled to. As previously mentioned you have the right not to be discriminated against and so if you believe this to be the case you should seek specific legal advice.
When might you become an employee?
Agency workers can be deemed to be employees under certain circumstances. For example, if they have worked for the same company for many years and thus ended up being treated in the same way as the employees who work there. To determine the status of an agency worker all the circumstances will be considered including mutuality of obligation and the element of control over the worker. If you are in dispute with your company over this issue then you should seek specific legal advice and if necessary go to the Employment Tribunal to have it judged upon.
What rules govern your relationship with your agency?
Agencies are regulated under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations.
The key rules are as follows:
Confidentiality must be kept between the parties.
Relevant information about the company must be given to the agency worker on assignment.
The agency must provide the worker with a written statement of terms and conditions.
The agency cannot stop the worker taking up permanent employment with the company (although the company can be charged a fee by the agency).
The agency cannot stop you registering with other agencies.
Disclaimer The information given in this article does not constitute legal advice.