Agency work

As far as employment law is concerned, you are an agency worker if you are an employee or worker of an agency and they place you on temporary assignments (or jobs) with hirers (employers). 

You may be called a “temp”.

You are not an agency worker if:

  • you are self-employed;
  • you work for a “managed service company” which provides an entire service for the employer and directly supervises the workers;
  • you work in-house as part of a pool or bank of temporary staff working only for that particular organisation; or
  • you are seconded by your employer to work for another organisation.

If you are unsure of your status you can contact a number of bodies for information and advice including, a union or government body. Useful websites include:


Conduct of Agencies

The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 set down legal minimum standards for how agencies must operate in the UK.

Agencies cannot, for example, charge you a fee for finding you work. Although they can charge for services including providing accommodation and transport, you do not have to sign up for these additional services. They cannot stop you from registering with other agencies.

Agency workers’ rights

Agency workers, including those on so-called “pay between assignment contracts”, have rights including:

  • to be paid the national minimum wage (NMW);
  • to work in a safe workplace;
  • to be issued with any protective equipment or clothing they need free of charge;
  • not to be discriminated against because you have a “protected characteristic” (see "Equality in the Workplace") or because you work part-time;
  • to rest breaks and a limit on the number of hours you work (an average of 48 hours a week);
  • to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year; and
  • to join a trade union.

Agency Workers Regulations 2010

From 1 October 2011, agency workers have also had the right to equal treatment when compared with permanent workers as a result of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010.

From day one, agency workers have the right to information about job vacancies at the hirer, as well as the right to equal access to collective facilities , such as the staff canteen.

After 12 weeks’ in the same job with a hirer, agency workers have the right to the same basic working conditions as if they had been recruited directly to the job.

The Agency Workers Regulations also improved pregnancy rights and they require employers to inform employee representatives about their use of agency workers in Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) or TUPE transfers and in collective redundancy consultations, required under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

Agency workers on “pay between assignment contracts”

Agency workers with a contract of employment with an agency who are paid between assignments are not entitled to equal pay after 12 weeks. Instead, they must be paid at least 50% of the pay they received in their last job or the NMW – whichever is the greater.

Some employers have used these contracts to avoid paying agency workers the same as their permanent workers. The TUC has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission against the UK government for failing to properly implement European employment law in this area.