Five Things UK Employers need to know about the Agency Workers Regulations 2010

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 came into force throughout the UK on 1 October 2011. If your company or organisation uses agency temps, here are five things you need to take into account.

1. Rights Temps Have on Their First Day

Right from the outset, agency temps are allowed equal use of staff facilities such as canteens and crèches. This can add additional costs on top of the basic salary and agency fees you are already paying. Temps must also be given access to the same information about vacancies as permanent staff. So if a vacancy is to be advertised internally, temps must be given the opportunity to apply for it.

2. Rights After 12 weeks in the Same Post

After twelve weeks of continuous work, temps are given many of the same rights as permanent members of staff in equivalent roles. Rates of pay must be the same, as must the amount of paid leave. Pregnant agency temps must be allowed paid time off to attend ante-natal classes and, if their duties are inappropriate for a pregnant woman, they have the right to be moved to a less physically onerous role (they are not entitled to full maternity leave). Temps are also entitled to performance based bonuses and other benefits, such as vouchers for eye tests.

Agency temps will not be entitled to redundancy pay, statutory notice, sick pay or occupational pension schemes.

3. When the Twelve Weeks Applies

It is not possible to get around these rules by removing a temp from post for a week and then re-hiring them in the same position. If a temp is laid off for a week after working four weeks, and then taken on again, their first week after the break counts as week five, not week one. By the same token, if a temp takes a week’s leave or misses work through illness during the twelve weeks, this will delay the date at which they are granted full rights. The clock is only reset after a gap of six weeks or more.

These rules only apply from 1 October; temps who were already in post before then should not count time worked before 1 October towards their twelve weeks.

4. No Simple Way to Ignore These Regulations

One method of exempting temps from the rules concerning equal pay is the so-called ‘Swedish derogation’. This allows temping agencies to effectively take on temporary workers as permanent staff and then hire them out to employers. As this places greater costs on the temping agencies, which have to pay workers between assignments and may be liable for redundancy pay, it is unlikely that any but the largest employers will be able to take advantage of this. Unions are reportedly considering testing the Swedish derogation’s legality in court.

It is important to adhere to these new laws, as there are strict anti-avoidance measures in place, and the financial penalties for non-compliance can be heavy.

5. Which workers these rules apply to

These rules apply only to temporary workers employed through recruitment agencies like Office Angels. Self-employed workers, or those working through their own limited liability companies, are not included. Some higher paid temporary workers are unhappy about the new regulations, which are likely to lead to fewer long-term contracts, and possibly fewer temping jobs full stop. There may therefore be more temporary workers willing to deal directly with companies, rather than through agencies.

While finding suitable candidates may be initially more expensive and difficult, it would not take long for a company to build a pool of reliable temporary self-employed workers. Even if they were paid the same as permanent workers in equivalent roles, without agency fees these workers will still be considerably cheaper.

These laws present new challenges to businesses and temps alike. Each business which uses temps will have to decide how best to meet those challenges.