What are my rights if I work for an agency?

  • Posted: January 20th, 2022
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  • Category: Employment

What are my employment rights as an agency worker?

Here at Citizens Advice North Lancashire, our advice team have helped numerous agency workers across the district to enforce the rights that they are entitled to at work. In my cases, our clients learned about various rights that they didn’t think they had as an agency worker, and in some cases our clients weren’t even aware they were classed as having agency worker status, for example they were told by their agency that they were self-employed. 

You might have heard in the news about the recent developments in the law on employment status of workers in the Uber case (Uber BV and others (Appellants) v Aslam and others (Respondents) [2021] UKSC 5) which was heard by the Supreme Court last year, and so you might be left wondering what your rights are.

The rules can sometimes be a complicated area of law for our clients to navigate, which is why we’ve put together this article which summarises some of the rights that agency workers have and how their rights differ to other employment statuses.

How do I know if I am an agency worker?

There are three main types of employment status in law that you’ll need to be aware of, which are employee, worker and self-employed. There are legal tests that apply to different employment statuses, which you can find a summary of in this section of the Citizens Advice website. 

The main thing you need to know about employment status is that the Employment Tribunal looks at the substance of the arrangement rather than the form. This means that just because your employer tells you you’re a worker or self-employed, or that it says so in your contract, this doesn’t mean that this is definitely the case. If there is a dispute about your employment status, or you need advice to work out which status you have, our advice team can help you.

Whilst employees have the strongest protections i.e. protection from unfair dismissal, agency workers and workers have limited employment rights, i.e. protection from wrongful dismissal arising from a breach of contract. In comparison to the genuinely self-employed however, there are very limited rights other than contractual rights and protections from unlawful discrimination.

It’s also important to know that whilst the rights of worker (sometimes referred to as contractors) and agency worker are fairly similar, there are additional protections for workers who are employed by an agency.

Employment status is a complicated and developing area of law, so if you’re not sure about what employment status you have, get in touch with our advice team and one of our advisers can help you find out.

What are my rights in a dismissal?

If you’re genuinely an agency worker, you aren’t entitled to bring a claim for unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal, but there are still ways you may be able to challenge a wrongful dismissal if it’s in breach of a clause in contract, for example if your contract gives you the right of appeal and your appeal is ignored - this could be construed as wrongful dismissal - it’s different to unfair dismissal. 

You might also be protected if your dismissal is due to unlawful discrimination, and you might also be protected if you’re dismissed for whistleblowing. If your case concerns whistleblowing, you should get advice before you do blow the whistle as it has to be done very carefully. Protect is a national charitable helpline that provides advise to whistle-blowers.

What are my rights as a worker or agency worker?

Unlike the genuinely self-employed, you still have the right to bring a claim against the employer in the Employment Tribunal or in the small claims County Court if you’re no longer working for your employer, if your rights as a worker are being infringed.

For agency workers, your rights change when you’ve worked on the same assignment with the agency for at least 12 weeks, known as the minimum qualifying period. You might still meet the period if some of your time off is due to pregnancy, childbirth, maternity or paternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave. 

The rights cover pay, holiday, sick leave, working hours, rest breaks, access to permanent vacancies at the hiring organisation and parental time off. The rules are quite detailed, so you will first need to find out more about the qualifying period and the rights of agency workers, which are summarised on the Citizens Advice website here and the ACAS website here.

Like employees, workers and agency workers are generally entitled to the following protections: 

Workers and agency workers may also be protected by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, also known as a ‘TUPE’ transfer, if the employer changes hands, but this is a complicated area of law and you should get advice if this is happening to you. 

What can I do if I have a problem at work?

If you have a problem at work, there are time limits so you’ll need to act quickly. If speaking to the employer informally hasn’t resolved the issues, then you should put the issues in writing and following a grievance procedure if there is one. Find out more about dealing with a problem at work on the national Citizens Advice website here.

There are time limits to bring a claim against your employer in the Employment Tribunal, which is usually 3 months from the date of the act complained of. You need to contact ACAS to start a process called early conciliation before the time limit ends.

If you need more help to work out your employment rights or take action about a problem at work, please call our FREEPHONE Adviceline on 0808 278 7882 or email enquiries@northlancashirecab.org.uk for a confidential discussion with one of our advisers. 

  • Posted: 20/01/22
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  • Category: Employment
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