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Knowledge Base

Agency worker employment rights

02 January, 2008

As an agency worker you are usually considered to be a ‘worker’ rather than an employee and you receive all the same employment rights as a worker as well as some additional rights.

Worker’s employment rights

All workers, including agency workers, are entitled to the following rights:

  • Paid holiday, rest breaks and limits on working time
  • No unlawful deductions from wages
  • The National Minimum Wage
  • Not to be discriminated against under any of the equality legislation
  • Protection under health and safety laws

However, workers are not generally entitled to redundancy pay or to claim unfair dismissal, which are rights available to employees. If you are in this situation you should seek further guidance to clarify your situation.

Contracts for services and contracts of employment

As an agency worker, it is likely that you have a contract for services with your agency. This means that you are not employed by the agency, you just have an agreement that they will look to find you temporary work. There is no obligation on the agency to find you work or for you to accept any work that they find you.

Contracts of employment are not generally issued by agencies to their workers. If you do have a contract of employment with your agency, it is likely to be a “zero hours” contract that does not guarantee you any particular level of work. If you are unsure if you are a worker or an employee, then you should seek independent advice.

Maternity, paternity and adoption pay

If you are an agency worker, you may have the right to maternity or paternity pay, but not maternity or paternity leave. If you need more information to find out if you qualify for maternity or paternity pay you should contact Acas or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Statutory Sick Pay

You can get Statutory Sick Pay in the same way as can other workers. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) can help decide what you are entitled to.

Paying your tax and National Insurance

There are special rules for agency workers on paying your tax and National Insurance contributions. Read more about tax and National Insurance.

Are you entitled to the same benefits as permanent staff?

You should check your contract with your agency to see what you might be entitled to, or talk to your agency. Unless you can show that you’re being unlawfully discriminated against there’s probably not much you can do if you are getting fewer benefits. Unlawful discrimination is where you are treated differently because of your sex, age, race or religion.

What to do if your agency isn’t giving you work

If your agency isn’t providing you with work there’s not much you can do, unless you think your agency is unlawfully discriminating against you, or breaching your statutory rights. The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides information and guidance on human rights issues.

It’s up to your agency to decide who they put forward for work, and agencies tend to have more people on their books than they usually need in order to cover peaks in demand. Raise the matter with your agency. If their reason is a bad reference from a pervious employer, your agency should explain this and let you have your say.

If your agency’s reason for not putting you forward for work is that there is not enough demand for the sort of work you want, you might consider broadening the range of work that you are prepared to do. If this fails try joining another agency, there is no limit to the number you can register with.

If you have a complaint to make about an employment agency then you can use the online complaint form to contact the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS) directly.

Where to get help

The EAS can give you confidential support or advice on your rights as an agency worker or you could visit the employment contacts page for details of other sources of advice. If you are a member of a trade union you can get help, advice and support from them.