Definition of a temporary agency worker
By definition, a temporary agency worker is an individual who is employed on a temporary basis for several days, weeks or even months. The temporary agency worker can be employed directly by an organisation, work for a recruitment agency or be self-employed. In most cases, temporary agency workers are employed by recruitment agencies, clients are charged either on an hourly or daily basis for their services and invoiced on a weekly or monthly basis.
Temporary agency workers can be found in every sector of the economy, including professionals (IT and financial staff), white-collar workers (receptionists, secretaries and call centre staff), and manual workers (building workers, catering staff, machine operatives and packers). The retail, hotel, catering and agriculture sectors have seasonal peaks of activity which are especially reliant on temporary workers.
According to the REC, whilst the suppliers of temporary agency workers usually work under the direction, control and supervision of the client, the recruitment company themselves will often brief the temporary worker on their forthcoming assignment and play some part in supervising them in their role.
The conditions and manner of the employment of temporary agency workers is extremely important in defining their legal status. Court cases involving temporary workers are on the rise, most of which have been brought about by a worker who has had their employment terminated. Such cases tend to be quite lengthy and are usually centred on the confusion over a worker's employment status e.g. whilst a worker has been designated a temporary position, they may have been working in that capacity for several years.
Why be a temporary agency worker?
There are an increasing number of individuals prepared to work on a temporary basis and the reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, there are more self-employed workers than ever before. Secondly, with more people placing value on the work/life balance, workers want to have more flexibility as well as control over when and where they work, working in the temporary market enables them to do this.
According to research, the majority of temporary agency workers are happy with their current employment status. 69% of associate employees indicated that they would prefer to remain in their current long-term flexible assignment rather than take on a permanent contract.
Almost everyone who legally works in the UK is entitled to receive a minimum level of pay. This is called the national minimum wage. Generally if you are legally allowed to work in the UK your employer must pay you at least the appropriate minimum wage. You can be paid more than the minimum wage but not less. It is an important cornerstone of Government strategy aimed at providing employees with decent minimum standards and fairness in the workplace. It helps business by ensuring companies will be able to compete on the basis of quality of the goods and services they provide, and not on low prices based predominantly on low pay rates. The rates set are based on the recommendations of the independent Low Pay Commission and they change on 1st October each year. This includes home workers, agency workers, part-time workers, casual workers, pieceworkers and foreign workers. It does not matter how much experience you have.
Current National Minimum Wage rates from 1st October 2010
- Workers aged 21 and over - £5.93 per hour
- Workers aged 18-21 - £4.92 per hour
- Workers aged 16-17 - £3.64 per hour
- Accommodation offset - £4.61 per day (£32.27 per week)
- The age of entitlement to the main rate was reduced from 22 to 21 on 1 October 2010.
- The national minium wage will be reviewed again October 2012.
Deductions from pay
Sometimes your employer may deduct money from your wages to pay for items such as uniforms, transport or agency fees. If your employer makes deductions for these items your pay after the deductions must still be at least the minimum wage. The only time an employer can make a deduction from your wages which takes your pay below the minimum wage is if you are living in accommodation provided by your employer. If this is the case the most your employer can take from your wages to pay for accommodation is £4.61 per day or £32.27 per week.
Sick pay rights
According to the terms of The Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations 2008, which came in to force on 27th October 2008, all agency workers are now eligible for statutory sick pay, whether they are indirectly or directly employed and regardless of the length of their contract.
The statutory sick pay scheme has historically excluded individuals who worked under a contract of three months or less. This exclusion from qualification for statutory sick pay (SSP) was removed for fixed term employees in 2002 when employment protection was extended to that group. Subsequently, it was found that the lifting of the exclusion for fixed term employees did not extend to agency workers.
To rectify the exclusion of short term contract agency workers from SSP the government issued its new regulations on the 3rd July 2008.
It is important to note that agency workers must still meet all other qualifying criteria for SSP purposes. They must, for example, be an employee for National Insurance purposes in order to qualify and be absent from work for 3 days or more.
Temporary agency workers are currently entitled to 28 days paid holiday.