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New rules seek to address agency worker rights

View profile for Sally Morris
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The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has updated its guidance on agency workers. Employers need to be aware of the changes and update their policies if any or all of the changes apply to them.

What’s new?

The new rules look to address the growing problem of late payments, after a survey revealed that one in four agency workers contacting the Acas helpline are unaware of their rights.

Under the new guidance, Acas reminds employers that self-employed agency workers “could still have some protections” under The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003. This means, for example, the right to be paid even if the agency has not been paid by the hiring organisation.

However, by using these protections, the employment status of the self-employed agency worker could come into question. That is to say, they may actually be contracted as a ‘worker’ or an ‘employee’ – entitling them to basic employment rights, but having to pay income tax and national insurance contributions at source.

It is important to verify the employment relationship from the outset, as contracts may need to be drawn up. Failure to do so at the earliest possible moment could result in backdated tax and rights claims.

Acas advises self-employed agency workers to “confirm in writing” should they wish to opt-out of the regulations.

“It is clear that there are agency workers who are unsure about their rights at work. This can leave them unsure about their entitlements on pay, working hours and time off for holidays and sickness,” said Tom Neil, Acas senior guidance adviser.

“Our new advice is an easy-to-understand guide that’s designed to explain how the law applies to agency workers now.”

The guidance also shines a light on the 12-week qualifying period, after which agency workers are legally entitled to the same basic pay and conditions as comparable employees.

The specialist employment team at mfg solicitors are here to help employers carry out their legal duties. For more information about how we could help you, please contact us.