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What is an agency contract?
What is an agency contract?
Legal issues

What is an agency contract?

You should receive a written statement of terms for any temporary role that you take on. Read on to find out more.
Summary

As an agency worker your contract is with the temporary work agency, not with the hiring organisation. The agency will draw up a separate contract directly with the hirer.

When the agency provides you with an ‘assignment’ or temping job, by law they must provide you with written terms, which are officially referred to as a ‘written statement of employment particulars’ or ‘key information document’. This should contain a range of details including your employer, the job description, start date, working hours and how much you’ll be paid. There is no set ‘contract’ that has to be signed by the temporary worker and the agency, but these terms provided by the agency will be legally binding, together with a number of implied terms which will apply whether or not they are written down,

Scope of the Statement

Many people assume that the statement is the same as the employment contract. But in fact there are many implied terms which are not included in the statement, but which will still be upheld by law if you were to bring a case before the Employment Tribunal, such as maternity and dismissal rights.

The agency must provide you with the statement before you start your assignment. It does not have to be signed, although this is advisable. Make sure you read through all the details and question anything that you’re not sure about, as it will be easier to make changes before you start than when you’re already doing the job.

What are the agency’s responsibilities?

Temporary work agencies (also known as recruitment agencies or staffing companies) have certain responsibilities that they need to fulfil before issuing the statement of terms.

Before they can agree an assignment with you, the agency should:

  • Ensure that you’re a good fit for the job (including training, qualifications and experience).
  • Check that you have a legal right to work in the UK.
  • Ask you to do a criminal record check/DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check for certain jobs, including teaching and childcare. The check will pick up any previous criminal offences that you have on your record.

An agency cannot charge you a fee for finding you an assignment. They may charge for other services such as help with your CV, or training, but should not put any pressure you to accept these paid services.

What is included in the written statement of terms?

Before you start a temping assignment, the employment agency must provide you with a ‘statement of employment particulars’ or ‘statement of terms’, which contains certain details about your role. These details should include:

  • Name of the worker, name of the employer and start date
  • Job title/job description: This should include your responsibilities and duties
  • Pay and how often you’ll be paid (e.g. daily/weekly/monthly)
  • Workplace: Including the address, and details of any other workplaces you might be required to go to as part of your role, including any regular trips abroad
  • Working hours: Including any lunch or rest breaks
  • Holiday entitlement: Statutory or hirer’s holiday entitlement
  • Other benefits: Benefits that you’ll get such as a discounted gym membership, health insurance or a company car
  • Absence and sick pay: What you have to do if you’re taking time off (apart from agreed holiday). Do you need a doctor’s note, and are you entitled to company sick pay?
  • Other paid leave: Terms covering any type of leave not covered elsewhere in the statement, including parental leave, bereavement leave, training and study leave etc.
  • Pension arrangements: This information does not need to be included on the original statement, but must be provided within two months of the start date
  • Training: Compulsory and additional training details, and whether training is paid or unpaid
  • Probationary period: Whether there is one, and if so how long it is
  • Notice period
  • Collective agreements: With employee representatives including trade unions. This information does not need to be included on the original statement, but must be provided within two months of the start date
  • Grievance procedure
  • Disciplinary and dismissal procedures

Remember that the written statement of employment particulars is not a full contract, as there are other implied terms which apply under law and do not need to be written down, such as the right to the minimum wage, holiday entitlement and the right not to be discriminated against.

Handy tip: From day one, temporary workers are entitled to access all of the same workplace amenities as a permanent employee, including cafeterias, prayer rooms, vending machines, on-sites gyms, showers and toilets.

How long does a temporary work assignment last?

There is no minimum or maximum duration for a temporary work assignment under UK law. By their very nature, temporary contracts tend to be short, sometimes only one week or even one day. Some temporary workers prefer to work on shorter assignments so that they have more variety and can gain a wider range of experience. As you build up trust with your recruitment agency, you might be entrusted with longer contracts of several months or more. Don’t be afraid to let your consultant know your preferred length of assignment.

After 12 weeks in the same role (with the same hirer), you’ll be entitled to almost all of the same rights as an employee of the hirer, including the same paid holiday. After four years working with the same organisation, your hiring organisation should give you a permanent contract, unless they can provide a good reason not to do so.

Can I terminate the contract?

It is relatively easy to terminate your agency contract in the UK. Neither you nor the hirer are legally required to give any notice. Do check your contract or statement for special clauses, just in case a notice period is specified.

Bear in mind that leaving suddenly without notice could have a knock-on effect on your future career and prospects. Consider having a chat with your agency or hirer first, and giving some notice in line with how long you’ve been working for the hirer. If you act professionally, your agency consultant will be more likely to find you roles in the future and/or give you a reference.

Finally…

Unlike a direct fixed-term contract, an agency worker’s contract is with the recruitment agency. The agency will ask the hiring organisation for any crucial information required for the terms or ‘statement of employment particulars’ (see above), and then provide this statement to the worker.

If the assignment does not go well, the worker or hirer may cancel it before the end date. If it’s successful then there is a good chance that it will be renewed once or even several times, or that you’ll be given a new assignment. The maximum duration of a temporary contract (or successive temporary contracts) with the same hirer is usually four years.

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