Agents for hire

Now that the dust has begun to settle, following the coming into force of the Agency Workers Regulations last October, it is an appropriate time for hirers to consider the effects which the Regulations have had.

Agency workers are a key element of flexible working practices for many businesses. The Regulations mean that:

  • from day one, agency workers are entitled to the same collective facilities and amenities as permanent workers and to receive information on any vacancies arising; and
  • from the end of week 12, agency workers are entitled to the same basic working and employment conditions as permanent workers.

There are practical difficulties in giving the same conditions as permanent workers, particularly in gauging comparative pay, where bonuses and commission are involved. Administrators must also calculate agency workers entitlement to holiday and sickness benefits. Where a worker is taken on to cover a range of responsibilities, the calculation of comparative benefits can become problematic. Furthermore, should these responsibilities change during the agency worker’s time in the business, his or her conditions must be reassessed.

From October this year, many agency workers will be entitled to join a qualifying pension scheme, although, admittedly, in most cases, this will be the agency’s responsibility.

Little wonder then that both agencies and hirers have sought to avoid the obligations of the Regulations by:

  • having a ‘managed service contract’ between agency and hirer, where a general service is offered rather than a specific worker.
  • using the services of a limited company which employs the worker.
  • providing a pool of different people from the agency to do the required work.
  • taking on a worker for a maximum of 12 weeks.
  • In the case of high worth workers, requiring him or her to sign a compromise agreement.

All these possible solutions need to be carefully considered before implementation. Employment tribunals are keenly aware of their existence and there are specific anti avoidance provisions in the Regulations. Potential hirers need to be prudent and should always check the agency’s written terms of engagement.

 

 

For more detailed information please contact Andrew Fleming on 01473 230033 or emailarf@blockslegal.co.uk

The above is general comment only and individual advice should be taken