Although the Agency Worker Regulation (AWR) has been in place for several years now, many agency workers are still left unaware of their rights and what exactly they are entitled to. With the average person unacquainted with what to expect when joining a business on a flexible contract, it falls into the hands of recruitment agencies and their staff to keep their workers informed.
The AWR came into force in October 2011 to give agency workers the same basic rights as those directly employed and enhanced rights for those who have been with a company for more than 12 weeks. Yet a lack of awareness means that agency workers are still very much unaware of their rights when being contracted to work for a company. With this, many businesses are getting away with unlawful and criminal acts, which is why recruitment agencies must take the lead. As a recruiter, you may have a bank of workers who work directly under your agency or that you place into employment. It is therefore your responsibility to let your candidates know their entitlements.
Likewise, it is also the recruitment agencies’ responsibility to place candidates and advertise roles for companies who are compliant with the law, otherwise the liability will be split between the hirer, the agency and umbrella company (if relevant).
Entitlements – Day One Rights
Upon joining, all workers are entitled to written terms of employment, which includes the employment terms and conditions such as pay, holiday entitlement, notice period and whether the individual is employed under a contract of services or employment. When offered a job, it is the responsibility of the company to tell the agency worker:
- How long the contract is likely to last and the start date
- The type of work that they are contracted to do
- The location and contracted hours
- Health and safety risks and procedures
- Experience, training or qualifications needed for the role
Entitlements – 12-week qualifying period
Although agency workers are handled differently, similarly to employees they are entitled to:
- Rest breaks
- National Minimum Wage (NMW)
- No unlawful deductions
- Health and Safety allowances at work
- Discrimination rights under the equality Act 2010
Yet it is important to note that these are the basic conditions upon starting at a company. After a 12 weeks qualifying period, legally, workers are entitled to the same rights as an employee. For a period to be classified as qualifying, a worker must work for a continuous period of 12 weeks for the same company and in a role which is the same or remotely similar to the one they were initially contracted for. After the 12-week period, workers are legally entitled to the same benefits as employees which are:
- The same wage as a permanent employee in that role
- Paid annual leave
- Auto enrolment
- Overtime and bonuses
- Rest breaks and rest periods
- Paid time for ante-natal reasons
Individuals who meet the 12-week qualifying period, but are not compensated for the time worked, can go through a tribunal process where both the agency and the company will be responsible for remunerating the individual up to £5,000 and pay a penalty. If you would like further advice and would like to discuss a personal case, contact our recruitment specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org.