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Agency workers

What is an agency worker?

An agency worker is a worker who has a contract with an agency but works for another employer on a temporary or semi-permanent basis.

Typical examples of agency workers include:

  • Supply teachers
  • Locum healthcare professionals
  • Models and entertainment workers

The employer who hires the worker pays a fee to the agency and the agency is then responsible for paying the worker’s wages.

Agency workers’ rights

The rights of agency workers are protected under The Agency Workers regulations 2010, which seeks to prevent agency workers from being treated less favourably.

If an employer is found to have treated agency workers less favourably than their permanent workers an employment tribunal may make a declaration of the agency worker’s rights in relation to their complaint; order the employer to pay compensation to the agency worker; or recommend any actions the employer must take to reduce the adverse effect of the matter complained of. The amount of compensation will be such as the employment tribunal considers to be just and equitable in all the circumstances.

Day one rights

From the first day of an assignment, the agency worker has certain rights. They are as follows:

  • Access to employment vacancies
    An agency worker must be told of relevant vacancies in the hirer during the assignment. The notification can be made by a general announcement in a suitable place. Guidance on the Agency Workers Regulations provides that this will not apply to posts that are ringfenced in a re-deployment process.
  • Access to on-site facilities
    An agency worker has the right to be treated no less favourably than a comparable worker in the hirer’s establishment in terms of access to collective facilities and amenities, unless the hirer can objectively justify the less favourable treatment. Examples of collective facilities and amenities include car parking spaces, canteen facilities, crèche, drinks facilities, etc. This does not entitle the agency worker to greater rights than an existing employee. Therefore, if the hirer provides access to a crèche to all employees once they have six months’ service, the agency worker should similarly have access once they have worked for the hirer for six months.

Liability for not complying with these two provisions rests with the hirer.

12-week rights

Once an agency worker has completed a 12-week qualifying period they will be entitled to equal treatment in terms of basic working and employment conditions as if they had been recruited directly by the hirer.

Basic working and employment conditions will include pay, length of working time, rest periods and rest breaks and annual leave amongst other things.

If you are an HR Rely member, you can access a template day 1 memo to an agency worker.

Read our guide to the Agency Workers Regulations for more information.

Covering strike action

From 21 July 2022, it is legal for employers to hire agency workers to cover the role of a worker participating in industrial action.