I’m an agency/umbrella worker. What is my right to sick pay?

Many people think that being a temp who works for a recruitment agency is precarious and that you don’t get any benefits. But your rights as an agency or umbrella worker might actually be much better than you thought.  

We’ve already written about how agency workers can access their holiday entitlement. Click here to read more.

You’ll be pleased to know there’s a similar system in place for sick pay. But like holiday pay, certain conditions have to be met by an agency worker, first.

What conditions do I have to meet as an agency worker for sick pay?

At a minimum, agency and umbrella workers are entitled to workers’ rights from the first day they work with their client. These day 1 rights are conferred within the Agency Worker Regulations which you can read about here.  This includes sick pay but certain criteria need to be met:

  • Your normal weekly earnings exceed £120 a week (if your pay varies, your entitlement depends on your average pay over the previous eight weeks); and
  • you are absent from work due to illness for at least four consecutive days (including weekends, bank holidays and days that you do not normally work).

Agency and umbrella workers will qualify for SSP if they have had 3 months’ continuous work with their agency or umbrella.

The 3-month period doesn’t have to be immediately before the Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW).  

The 3-month period can only be broken by a written termination of your contract, or a trade dispute such as strike action.

If your 3 months have a couple of bumps in the road due to illness, or if you take annual leave, then that still counts towards the period of continuous employment, entitling you to SSP after qualification.

If you have had at least 3 months’ continuous service, then SSP entitlement continues for the whole of the Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW) unless:

  • You have been given written notice that the contract has come to an end.
  • SSP entitlement stops for some other reason.

If you do not have at least 3 months’ continuous service then your SSP entitlement will:

  • Continue to the end of the assignment that you had agreed to work.
  • If you have accepted other assignments whilst off sick, then SSP entitlement will continue until the end of the last assignment (and any periods in between) unless the contract has been terminated in writing. 

Sick leave overall as an agency worker

Overall, there is a human element to consider, too. As an agency worker, you have the same rights as anybody else when they fall ill.

If you’re too ill to work on your client’s assignment, then you must contact your agency and hiring organisation as soon as you possibly can to let them know.

You should also provide a reason for your absence, outline your symptoms and provide a date when it’s most likely you’ll be able to return.

Again, this won’t affect your 3-month qualifying period.

Like any form of working relationship, it’s your responsibility to keep everybody associated with your work as informed as possible as soon as a problem arises.

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