What are the Agency Worker Regulations?

Time was that an agency worker wouldn’t have the same rights as the people they were working alongside on their assignments.

Two people sat side-by-side would have drastically different rights, even if they were performing the same role for the client.

A permanent employee for the client would have access to a number of benefits from their employee that simply weren’t allowed to the agency worker. That could include access to the canteen, creche access and more.

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (AWR) changed all that. The legislation was designed specifically so agency workers wouldn’t be discriminated against on assignments in favour of their full-time counterparts.

From October 2011, the AWR addressed issues agency workers were predominantly facing at the time, such as low pay, access to holidays, working time conditions and much more besides.

That legislation is still in place and enjoyed by agency workers today. So, what does it mean for you?

Your legal rights as an agency worker

As an agency worker, the AWR grants you equal access to facilities that the client provides permanent employees of the organisation from the first day of your assignment.

That means you can make use of eating and social areas, parking spaces if available, women and baby changing rooms, and any other service that the client’s full-time employees are privy to.

The AWR also gives agency workers the opportunity to access information surrounding vacancies at the client’s workplace, and allows them to apply for roles at the company should they so wish.

The AWR covers longer-term working assignments, too, with agency workers able to access ‘equal treatment’ following a 12-week term of continual employment by the same client.

After that 12-week qualifying period has been satisfied, the AWR allows agency workers access to equal pay and basic working rights, including annual leave, rest breaks and pension auto enrolment, and many other benefits.  

You will also qualify for rights to time off for antenatal appointments, including unpaid time off to accompany your partner to up to two antenatal appointments, and new rights to time off to arrange adoption appointments.

We’ve written about how that equal treatment extends to holidays and holiday pay, and how you can access them through AWR as an agency worker.

Click here to find out more about your holiday rights.

What is this ‘qualifying period’?

Though you will have access to basic services offered by the client from day one thanks to AWR, it takes 12 weeks’ continual service with a client until you qualify for equal treatment.

But what does that 12-week qualifying period look like in practice? The basic terms and conditions include working in the same role for the same client over a continual period of 12 calendar weeks.

During this time, the agency worker can also complete the qualifying period for other clients, so long as they stick with that client and are hired to do the same role over that timeframe.

Important points regarding the 12-week period:

  • It starts from your first day at work, and you don’t have to be at work for 12 weeks in a row.
  • Days throughout the 12-week qualifying period will be paused for sick days or for breaks of six weeks or less, and will start up again on your return.
  • The 12-week period will also continue through pregnancy, and up to 26 weeks after childbirth; for adoption leave and for paternity leave.
  • The 12-week timer will reset to zero if you start a substantially new role with your client, have a break of more than six weeks, or finish the assignment.

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