An agency worker is usually signed up with a recruitment agency that provides the worker with employment, although there is no guarantee of work.
An agency worker is not directly employed by the company where they work; they are often on short-term contracts and may work for a number of different companies over a short period of time.
There has been a marked increase in the use of agency workers by employers from all sectors in the UK but particularly in distribution, transport, and food manufacturing.
Agency workers do have some rights but often miss out in terms of sick pay, pension provision and other benefits enjoyed by the core workforce.
Agency workers are covered by the National Minimum Wage and statutory holiday entitlement and if they work at the same company for a continuous 12-week period they do qualify for equal rights. However, to avoid this many agencies now employ their workers directly, this dodges the rule that says after 12 weeks agency workers should be treated on equal terms as the core workforce. This is called the Swedish Derogation – whereby the worker gives up their right to equal pay in exchange for being paid while being between work placements.
Usdaw wants to recruit more agency workers and is supporting the TUC in its formal complaint to the European Commission about the abuses around the Swedish Derogation.
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