Be clear on new agency worker rules

So the new Agency Workers Regulations are now in force, but what do they mean for small businesses?

Confusion has been rife among employers, with many misinterpreting the regulations and the impact they will have on the hiring of agency staff.

As of October the 1st, organisations hiring agency workers for assignments that will continue beyond 12 weeks are required to offer these workers terms and conditions (relating to some aspects of pay, hours of work and holidays) that are ‘no less favourable’ than those they would have offered if the worker had been hired directly by the company.

Not surprisingly, given the vagueness of the change presented to them, many employers have misunderstood the exact terms of the regulations and, as a result, assume that they will need to offer agency staff salaries above and beyond what the regulations require.

Basically, agency workers are now entitled to be treated the same as a new starter hired directly by the company. This does not mean that an agency worker will necessarily get the same rights as someone already working within the organisation who simply has the same job title or job role. Existing employees who have the same job title may have been with the organisation for a number of years and are likely to have built up additional benefits and/or pay increases over this time. An agency worker joining the organisation would not immediately qualify for these accrued benefits.

Recruiter Adecco is concerned that employers are in serious danger of inadvertently gold plating the new regulations, because they have misinterpreted what the regulations actually mean for the hiring of agency staff.

Andy Smith, head of regulation and employment law at the company says, ‘It’s not as simple as finding someone within your organisation with the same job title or job role and then matching the agency worker’s pay and benefits to this individual. Longer term employees are likely to have built up their salary package over time and companies are not compelled to simply offer the same terms to a new agency hire.

‘These simple mistakes could cost business dearly and in some cases could impact negatively on the future recruitment of agency workers, as employers shy away from the use of agency staff due to misconceptions about increased costs and the perceived burden of the regulations.’

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