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Equality of treatment on the horizon for temporary agency workers

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published guidance on the Agency Workers Regulations, which are due to come into force in October 2011. This guidance is intended to assist employers, and those who work in the recruitment business, understand the impact of the regulations and ensure they do not fall foul of their requirements.

The regulations cover:-

• temporary agency workers;
• the organisations involved in the supply of temporary agency workers; and
• hirers in all sectors

The regulations provide that agency workers will have a right to access all collective facilities (e.g. canteen or car parking facilities) and all information on job vacancies from day one of the assignment.

After 12 weeks in the same temporary job, agency workers will also be entitled to equal treatment in respect of pay and other basic working conditions such as pay scales, annual leave and shift allowances. This right will apply even if an agency worker only works a minimal number of hours in each week. However, there are several exclusions from these rights including occupational schemes relating to sick pay, maternity pay and pensions. The BIS guidance gives useful explanation and examples of how the exclusions operate.

In order to comply with the regulations:-

• temporary work agencies must obtain and record information about the basic pay and working conditions offered to its agency workers if it is likely that they will be in the same job for over 12 weeks; and
• hirers must provide their agency with current information on terms of employment so that the agency can make sure their agency workers are being treated equally in accordance with the regulations.

If there is any breach of the rights in relation to an agency worker’s basic working conditions the temporary work agency will be responsible unless it can show it took reasonable steps to obtain relevant information from the hirer.

If the agency can show it took reasonable steps then the hirer will become directly liable for the breach. The hirer will also be solely responsible for any breach of the right to access to collective facilities and job vacancies. It is therefore vital that agencies offering temporary work and employers who use temporary agency workers prepare for the regulations before they come into effect. From October 2011 it will be vital for temporary work agencies and hirers to effectively communicate with each other, ensuring ongoing systems are in place to exchange information in order to comply with the new legislation.

For further information or advice, please contact Liane Atkin at liane.atkin@collingwoodlegal.com, or telephone Liane on 01434 636094.

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