Using an employment agency. What are the rights of agency workers?
“Employment agency” is an agency which has a mediating function between yourself and an employer. Employment agencies normally operate in one of the following two ways:
Employment agency TYPE 1: They find work for job-seekers and connect them with employers. In this scenario, job-seekers become employees of the company they have been connected with by the agency; they enter into contract with the company (not the agency) and are paid by that company (not the agency).
Employment agency TYPE 2: Even though the main purpose of the employment agency is still to find work for job-seekers, in this second scenario job-seekers enter into contract with the employment agency itself (not the company they are connected with by the agency). Even after starting to work for a “hiring company”, the employee is still paid by the employment agency and not the company they have been connected with by the agency.
! Remember, when registering with an employment agency, it is important to ask the agency to confirm whether it will be finding you temporary work with a “hiring company” (TYPE 2: in this case, you will be paid by the agency), or whether it will be finding you permanent employment (TYPE 1: in this case, you will be paid by the company you start working for).
! The term “agency worker”, also called “temps”, only applies to you if you are paid by the employment agency (TYPE 2).
While, as an agency worker you will probably have a “contract for services” with your employment agency, this does not mean you are employed by it. There is no obligation on the agency to find you work and you are also not obliged to accept any work they find you.
The way employment agencies treat their employees as well as all complaints against employment agencies are normally regulated and dealt with by the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate. Yet, there are a number of things you need to know in order to be able to recognize that you are not being treated correctly in the first place.
Every employment agency should abide by the following regulations. If it does not, this is unlawful and you should seek to protect your rights:
-must not ask you for money in order to find you work
-must not ask you to pay with your own money for equipment, protective clothing or uniforms unless you are being told in advance and have agreed (but they may charge you for obtaining a Criminal Records Bureau check provided that this has been discussed with you in advance).
-must not make you use and pay for extra services as a condition for finding you work (such as CV preparation)
-must not charge you or penalise you for taking a permanent job with the company they have connected you with
-must not penalise you for registering with other agencies
! Remember that, while an agency can charge you for transport, accommodation or training , you have the right to cancel or withdraw from the service provided that you give a 10 working day written notice for cancellation of accommodation, and 5 working days notice for cancellation of all other services.
+must inform you in writing about your payment rate, the terms and conditions of your contract, length of notice, and the type of work they will find for you. Upon being offered a position by a hiring company, the agency must provide you with written details of the job, the length of your employment and your salary.
+must pay for all work you have undertaken even if it has not been paid by the hiring company and even if you have failed to produce a signed timesheet.
! Remember that agency workers, also called “temps”, short-term casual workers and some freelancers have slightly different employment rights from common “employees”. Unlike “employees”, agency workers are not entitled to redundancy pay or to make a claim for unfair dismissal.
A summary of these points could be found in this workers` rights Booklet, displayed on the governmental information website Direct.Gov.
For advice with problems you might have with using an employment agency, you can contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368 (The Pay and Work Rights Helpline`s staff accepts enquiries in more than 100 languages, so feel free to request a speaker of your native language). Alternatively, you can register your problem and request information and guidance using this Online Enquiry Form.