Agency staff gain new rights under the Good Work Plan

As one of the measures included in the government's Good Work Plan, from 6 April agency workers will gain new rights to equal pay.

The new rules make the so-called Swedish derogation unlawful. This loophole allowed employers to pay agency workers less than their permanent counterparts, somewhat against the aims of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) 2010.

These regulations state that temporary agency workers must earn the same basic pay, and enjoy the same working conditions, as any staff who are on permanent contracts. That is, as long as the agency workers have been working in the same role for 12 weeks.

Under the Swedish derogation, also called a "pay between assignments" contract, workers - who were paid by an agency - gave up the right to pay parity with comparable permanent staff in return for a guarantee to receive a certain amount of pay when they had gaps between assignments..

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation and Trades Union Congress have produced a factsheet to help guide agency workers through the latest changes and to highlight their pre-existing rights.

Also under the Good Work Plan, from today, agency workers will now be entitled to a "key information document" when they register with an employment business, setting out essential information such as: the type of contract they are on; the identity of the business paying them; their pay rate; and holiday entitlements and other benefits.

They are also, in line with all new employees, now entitled to a written statement of particulars no later than day one of their employment, setting out the key terms and conditions that apply between the worker and their employer.

The REC and TUC factsheet, as well as describing these changes, contains tips for choosing a compliant recruitment agency, and steps workers can take if they have a complaint.

Meanwhile, both organisations have urged the government to provide clarity on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme applies to agencies and their workers, and set out measures to ensure agencies have sufficient cashflow to meet their obligations during the current crisis.

REC chief executive Neil Carberry said it was important for recruitment agencies to share the factsheet with their "to increase transparency around their rights and pay".

He added: "Once we get through the current crisis, government must continue the work to increase compliance by regulating umbrella companies, and extending the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate's remit to include them. This would allow agency workers to bring complaints against non-compliant umbrella companies, as they can with recruitment agencies."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Pay Between Assignment [Swedish derogation] contracts will be abolished from April, which should lead to agency workers getting a much-deserved pay increase.

"We want all agency workers to know about these new rights, and other important rights like equal pay rules and holiday entitlement. So we hope our joint factsheet with the REC will be shared far and wide - to workers, employment agencies and the firms that use them. Between us we can make sure that agencies and agency workers know these rights, deliver them and get the benefits."