How to… manage agency workers

07 June 2012
How to… manage agency workers

With just two months until the Olympics, employers are naturally looking to boost their workforce with temporary labour to cope with what's set to be a bumper summer for the UK.

However, unwitting employers are putting themselves at risk of tribunal claims, negative PR and fines for non-compliance with regulations - in particular the Agency Worker Regulations that came into force six months ago.

The Agency Worker Regulations give temporary employees the same rights as permanent staff after 12 weeks of work in the same role, with the same employer, and in some cases increased employment rights from day one. The regulation covers everything from pay, rest periods and night work policies to annual leave, and gives additional rights to pregnant temporary workers.

With non-compliance resulting in hefty penalties it's vital for hospitality operators to adhere to the regulation.

An agency worker's rights from day one
The first right is the right to be treated no less favourably than the hirer's comparable employees in relation to collective facilities and amenities provided by the hirer, unless they can objectively justify this.

The second is the right to be informed by the hirer of any relevant vacant posts that it has available, to give agency workers the same opportunity as a directly comparable employed worker to find permanent employment with the hirer. This can be via a "general announcement in a suitable place", such as a noticeboard or the hirer's intranet.

Five ways to help you manage Agency Worker Regulations
1 Remember the 12-week rule. The equal treatment entitlements are related to pay and other basic working conditions and come into effect after an agency worker has completed a 12-week qualifying period in the same job.
2 Be clear on what employees are entitled to after their 12-week qualifying period - rest periods, rest breaks, annual leave, the right to access collective facilities like canteens, childcare facilities and car parks, and the right to be informed by the client of any relevant posts.
3 Don't forget that pregnant workers are now allowed paid time off for ante-natal appointments during an assignment and they must be offered suitable alternative work if their role becomes unsuitable. If this does not happen the agency worker should be paid for the duration that it is expected the assignment would last.
4 Remember, once your agency worker has completed their 12-week qualification period the regulations do not affect certain elements such as - occupational sick pay, pensions, maternity, paternity and adoption pay, redundancy pay and notice pay.
5 Know how long that an agency worker can take a break for without breaking the 12-week rule. Make sure you understand the difference between resetting, pausing and continuing the 12-week qualifying clock. For example, with maternity or paternity leave, the clock continues, but in the case of an agency worker being assigned a different job role in the same company, the clock would reset.

Rafiq Chohan is managing director at Goldteam

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