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Agency workers gain greater rights

Employers must ensure that they give agency workers similar rights in pay and benefits to those of permanent workers, following the introduction of new legislation.

The Agency Workers Regulations apply to agency workers who have completed 12 weeks of service in the same role with an employer, and whose period of employment began on or after 1 October 2011.

The controversial European legislation means that following the initial qualifying period, temporary workers will be entitled to the same employment and working conditions as other staff, including pay, overtime payments and holiday entitlements, as well as improved maternity rights.

Agency workers will also be entitled to use some of the same facilities as other members of staff from the first day of their employment, such as childcare facilities, canteens and transport services, and will be entitled to the same access to job vacancies.

However, some benefits such as occupational sick pay, redundancy pay and health insurance will not be extended to agency workers.

Employers are being urged to ensure that they comply with the rules. Failure to do so could result in an employment tribunal, with employers potentially facing fines of up to £5,000 for each case of unequal treatment.

John Taylor, Chief Executive of Acas, said, ‘Businesses really need to make sure that they have a handle on these changes. It’s not something to think about down the line and get it wrong, as it can be costly to your business’.

Business groups have expressed concerns that the changes will cost firms up to £2bn a year, and could damage labour market flexibility.