When you join a company in a temporary position to fill a staffing gap, you need to know what your rights are as a temp, and whether you have the same entitlements as permanent staff. The answer is both yes and no. You’ll have access to the same facilities as permanent staff from day one of your assignment, for example toilets and shower facilities, canteens, childcare facilities, on-site gyms and prayer rooms. You’ll also be able to consult internal vacancies. You can take statutory holiday entitlement and you must be paid at least the minimum wage. To access further benefits, you need to have been working for the same company (or ‘hirer’) for at least 12 weeks.
If you want to know where you stand as a temp, it’s important to understand the law.
Although the UK is a common-law legal system and does not have a Labour Code like other European countries, a statutory instrument came into force in October 2011 known as the Agency Workers Regulations 2010. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that agency workers are not discriminated against in comparison to their permanent colleagues. The Regulations set out what rights and entitlements agency workers should have, both from the first day of their assignment and after completing a 12-week qualifying period with the same hirer. We’ll explain these in more detail later on.
Any company or organisation with temporary staffing needs can call on the services of a temporary work agency, otherwise known as a recruitment agency. They may need to fill a staffing gap due to holiday or maternity, or may be looking to try out a candidate for a potential permanent position. The company (or ‘hirer’) will enter into a contract directly with the agency.
Once the agency has found the perfect candidate (you!), they must provide you with a ‘written statement of employment particulars’, which must list certain key information including the name of the hirer, the workplace, your job description, pay, start date, holiday and sickness arrangements and training. This may also be referred to as a contract. The recruitment agency will be your employer and will take care of payroll, holiday and tax. You will however be working under the supervision of the hirer, and will be expected to carry out all reasonable duties as outlined by them. Both the hirer and the agency are responsible for ensuring that your working conditions are in line with the law, such as ensuring that you are able to take rest breaks you are entitled to, and that you are working in a safe and secure environment. From day one, you should be earning at least the minimum wage for your age group, be accruing a holiday entitlement and be protected against discrimination. If you have a complaint or are unsure of your rights, try speaking to your agency consultant or manager at the company you are working for. You can also seek impartial advice from ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service: https://www.acas.org.uk/contact.
The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 refer to ‘equal treatment’, which should be applied to any agency worker who has worked in the same role for 12 weeks or more. This basically means that the worker is treated the same as if they had been recruited directly.
From day one of your temping assignment, you’ll be entitled to many of the same ‘perks’ as an existing employee:
Let your agency consultant know if you think that any of your rights are not being honoured by the hirer, or if you feel that you have been discriminated against in some way.
To qualify for ‘equal treatment’ to a directly recruited employee, you must have worked for the same hirer for a minimum of 12 weeks. The Agency Workers Regulations describe this qualifying period as a clock. If you move to a substantially different role or to a different hirer, the ‘qualifying clock’ will reset to zero. The same is true if you have a break of more than six weeks while working for the hirer.
There are several circumstances in which the clock is ‘paused’ for various lengths of time, depending on the specific situation. Sickness absence, annual leave and being called for jury service are all circumstances which will pause the clock, as will a shutdown of the site (e.g. for Christmas), or any industrial action such as a strike.
The clock will keep ticking in the case of pregnancy or maternity-related absences, or statutory maternity, paternity or adoption leave.
Unlike employees, temporary workers are not automatically entitled to take time off for family bereavements, births or deaths, with the exception of maternity, paternity and adoption leave. If you need to ask for time off, send your request to your agency consultant and discuss it with them. It is likely that any time granted would be unpaid. Ultimately, it is up to you whether you want to take unpaid leave but this may involve quitting the assignment you’re working on. As long as you’re honest with your agency and hirer, taking family leave shouldn’t however affect any future assignments.
When you start an assignment, your agency should give you details of any health and safety risks, and the measures that the hirer has put in place to mitigate these risks. The agency and the hirer are jointly responsible for ensuring that you have received all of the training you’ll need to do your job safely. Training for new starters might include any risks related to your specific role, and the health and safety procedures in place at the place of work. You should also be made aware of any fire safety and evacuation procedures.
You should be provided with any PPE that you require for the job, free-of-charge, such as gowns and face masks for clinical roles, or safety shoes and hard hats on a construction site.
Although temping roles offer less stability than permanent contracts, the Agency Workers Regulations offer many of the same protections that a permanent staff member would have. You’ll have access to certain basic protections from day one, as well as access to the company’s facilities. If you work for the hirer for 12 weeks or more, you’ll gain what the regulations refer to as ‘equal treatment’. This means that you’ll be able to take the same rest breaks and holiday as permanent staff, and you’ll be entitled to the same salary. Be aware that there are certain benefits which are left to the hirer’s discretion, such as profit-sharing schemes, company cars or reduced membership of an offsite gym.
If you’re unsure what your rights are, ask your consultant and make sure that they’re included in your written statement. Take a look at our other temping articles to find out more.
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