Agency workers’ employment rights

Recruitment Services


Agency workers are those whose work contract is with an agency, including a temporary or recruitment agency or a modelling agency.

From day one, agency workers have the rights associated with workers rather than employees. This includes:

  • The right to the National Minimum wage
  • The statutory minimum level of paid holiday
  • The statutory minimum length of rest breaks
  • The right not to work more than an average of 48 hours a week unless they choose to opt out of this
  • Protection against unlawful discrimination
  • Protection from being treated less favourably if they work part time.

The 12-week qualifying period

After 12 weeks in the same job, agency workers are entitled to equal treatment as if they had been recruited directly by the hirer.

This includes basic pay, including holiday pay, overtime and bonuses linked to your performance, the same annual leave as permanent colleagues and paid time off for antenatal care.

Workers can turn down work if they don’t wish to do it, but are not usually able to request flexible working, take time off for emergencies, be given notice periods in the case of dismissal or claim unfair dismissal or statutory redundancy pay.

They are also not able to take Statutory Maternity Leave, but may be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance, Statutory Paternity/Adoption Pay or Shared Parental Pay depending on whether they meet the eligibility criteria.

Worker or employee?

You are not an agency worker if you are self employed, use an agency to find permanent work [you are then an employee of the hiring company], have to accept work offered and be available to work a minimum amount of hours each week or are paid between assignments. In the latter case, you are considered an employee of the agency, rather than an agency worker.

That means you may be entitled to statutory maternity leave and pay, paid time off for antenatal care, statutory paternity and adoption leave and shared parental leave. You are also protected from pregnancy and maternity discrimination, for instance, an agency refusing to place you in a role or a hirer terminating a job due to pregnancy.

Pros and cons

Benefits for agency workers include being able to work in lots of different organisations and greater flexibility. Disadvantages include greater insecurity and potential variation in weekly earnings.

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