What are the Conduct Regulations?

As an agency worker, it pays for you to know a bit about Conduct Regulations, and what they mean to you in relation to the agency you’re partnered with.

Coming into force in 2004, the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (“Conduct Regulations”) was legislation designed to implement a set of minimum standards for the conduct of the UK’s private recruitment industry.

The legislation was brought in to regulate the recruitment industry and to modernise the previous rules conferred within the Employment Agencies Act 1973.  

The Conduct Regulations were designed to go further (than the 1973 rules), and extend more rights and minimum standards to agency workers.

One of the first questions agency workers will be asked when they look to sign up with an agency, though, is whether they would like to ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ of Conduct Regulations.

But is that legal, and what does it mean for you as an agency worker?

What are the Conduct Regulations?

First, we need to underline what the Conduct Regulations actually provide to you as an agency worker, and why they matter.

Conduct Regulations provide agency workers with certain additional rights and protections during their assignments. They include:

  • Payments from the agency even if the agency is not paid by the end client for whatever reason.
  • Upon the end of your contract with the client, the agency can’t stop you continuing to provide services directly to them.
  • The agency can’t withhold pay under certain circumstances.
  • The agency must provide you, as a worker, with specific information about the services they will provide and the assignments they have for you.
  • The agency must not charge you for their work-finding services, or ask for payment from you to help them find you assignments.

By opting in to the Conduct Regulations, you as an agency worker can enjoy all of those legal protections, and have peace of mind that your agency is legally-bound to follow a certain set of rules designed to be beneficial to you.

With so many benefits, surely it makes sense to always opt-in, right?

Why agency workers opt-out of the Conduct Regulations

If you so wish, you can opt-out of the Conduct Regulations, and you will not have that coverage during your assignment with the client.

But why opt-out? A lot of agency workers opt-out of Conduct Regulations because they are already working for themselves through their own limited company, and may just prefer to stick with the status quo.  

In addition, IR35 status (which you can read more about here) is a key consideration for contractors that are engaged through their personal service company (PSC), and the conduct regulations imply that individuals are under the control of the end-client.  

Given that “control” is a key indicator of employment, it can be argued that “opting in” could make an assignment more likely to be inside IR35, and therefore potentially a negative option from the PSC’s perspective.  

Ensuring a valid Opt-Out

In order to opt out written notice needs to be provided to your agency before the start of the assignment.  

The agency must notify the end-client that you have opted out of the Conduct Regulations before you are introduced or supplied to the client. An incorrect opt-out means that the conduct regulations will apply regardless.

Not all agency workers can opt-out of the Conduct Regulations

It is important to be aware that not all agency workers are permitted to opt out of the Conduct Regulations.  

Any agency workers involved with working with anyone under the age of 18, or with vulnerable adults, are not allowed to opt out of the regulations.  

If you are unsure then your agency should be able to advise if this applies to you. People are unable to opt out of the agency conduct regulations.  

The choice is yours

As always, though, the choice is yours whether to opt-in or opt-out of Conduct Regulations when partnering with an agency and working with their clients.

An agency cannot force you to opt out – it has to be your decision.  An agency cannot make an assignment dependent on you opting out.  And if you do opt out, once that particular assignment has ended you can choose to opt back in again.

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