Agency Workers Regulations – what you need to know

On 1 October 2011, the new Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) came into force and are set to change legislation dramatically for both agency workers and their employers. Christopher Busst, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Wolverhampton, explains how these new regulations will affect businesses.

What are the AWR?

The AWR make fundamental changes to temporary workers’ employment conditions. Their effect is to provide agency workers with the same basic terms and conditions as those directly employed by the hirer, after a 12 week qualification period.

Does AWR affect my business?

Your staff are likely to be covered by the regulations if your business uses a temporary work agency, uses temporary workers that are paid through the PAYE system, or if your business uses an umbrella company to manage temporary staff. From 1 October 2011, employers are responsible for providing temporary staff with access to facilities, amenities and with information about job vacancies on a par with direct employees from the first day of their employment. If applicable, temporary staff will also need access to car parks, canteens and an onsite crèche or gym.

So, what happens after 12 weeks?

After temporary staff have worked for a business for 12 weeks in the same role they will become eligible for treatment as if they had been directly employed with respect to:

  • pay
  • working time
  • rest breaks
  • annual leave
  • certain types of personal bonus

Counting the 12 weeks

Temporary workers will be eligible for AWR benefits once they have worked for a business in the same role for 12 weeks. So, the earliest temporary staff can become eligible at any business is 24 December 2011 – 12 weeks after 1 October 2011.

Should a temporary worker take a break from their role of more than one week and less than seven weeks, then the 12 week qualification period stops running, resuming in the same place when they return to work. If the break is due to sick leave or jury service, then provided the break is for fewer than 28 weeks, the qualifying period will resume on the temporary workers’ return to work. However, if there is a break in employment due to maternity, paternity or adoption leave, this period will generally count towards the 12 week qualification period.

What do I need to do?

Check how many agency workers your business uses

As part of understanding the overall numbers of temporary staff, businesses should look at which roles are being filled by agency workers, how long workers tend to remain in these roles and the nature of assignments temporary staff are given. Only then can you establish how many of your temporary staff are eligible. It is worth noting that genuinely self-employed workers are excluded from these arrangements.

Establish who the comparators are

A comparator is someone who is directly employed by you in the same role as an agency worker. It is vital to work out the comparator for each role that is filled by an agency worker to ensure equal treatment.

Work out what current terms and conditions are included

It’s important to review the terms that are on offer to relevant comparators to enable a cost analysis and to source the information that will be required from your agencies.

Consider how you use agencies

The introduction of AWR means that agencies and employers will work more closely together – this may mean working with fewer, more trusted agencies.

Communicate the changes across the business

Employers need to ensure there are effective engagement plans for those affected by AWR, including managers, agency workers and even trade unions.

If your business will be affected by AWR and you need support, book an appointment with the University Legal Advice Centre by calling: 01902 322484 for free impartial advice and guidance.