Imminent change to the agency workers regulations

The new Agency Worker Directive and Regulations (AWR) will come into force across the UK on the 1 October 2011 and will change the way businesses introduce new staff on a short-term basis.

The new AWR stipulate that, after 12 weeks in the same job, temporary agency workers will be entitled to the same basic working and working conditions (e.g. terms and conditions relating to pay, working hours, overtime, holidays, rest periods, access to vacancies and to other facilities) as those who have been recruited directly by the company.  The new regulations do not apply to areas such as pension schemes, company sick pay, maternity/paternity leave or redundancy (more information can be found on the Directgov website).

Temporary workers (namely PAYE temps, workers who supply their services through an umbrella company, and those who are supplied by an agency) will only start to accrue the 12 weeks qualifying period after the regulations come into force on 1 October 2011 (even if the assignment started before that date).  Once agency workers have worked in the same role for the same end-user for 12 continuous calendar weeks (regardless of how many hours they work each week) they will qualify for equal treatment.

The flexible labour market in the UK is an essential resource for many UK companies and the economy as a whole. The new regulations aim to address inequalities faced by agency workers, many of whom may have been working on secondment at an organisation for months or even years. These perceived inequalities include issues such as lower earnings, no overtime provision, not being able to apply for internal job vacancies, and not benefiting from the same annual leave entitlement as permanent employees.

Employers need to aware of their responsibilities regarding the health and safety of all employees. Temporary agency workers often face particular problems because they may not be familiar with an organisation they are working in or its particular hazards. Employers need to concentrate on good practice in terms of employee health, including communicating health and safety information, and undertaking risk assessments and health surveillance programmes, where necessary.

For more information on the new agency workers regulations, or on looking after the health of temporary or permanent staff in your organisation, contact the free Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44 to talk to an occupational health professional.

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