I think I am being denied equal treatment under the Agency Workers Regulations by my agency and/or hirer. What can I do?

If you think you have been denied your rights under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (AWR), you can make a claim to an employment tribunal. You should always seek advice from your union, the Acas Helpline (tel: 0300 123 1100) or other advice agencies before making a claim to an employment tribunal.

Any of these will be able to advise on your specific situation and may be able to resolve the matter at an earlier stage. As with most statutory rights, there is a three-month time limit for claims to an employment tribunal.

Where an employment tribunal finds that your rights under AWR have been breached, they will make a declaration and award a minimum of two weeks' pay. If you successfully demonstrate that the anti-avoidance measures have been breached, the tribunal will be able to award up to £5,000 compensation.

Before making a claim, you may also find it helpful to seek a written statement from the hirer or agency about your treatment. If your complaint relates to less favourable treatment in relation to collective facilities or not being provided with information about vacancies in the hirer's organisation, you can write to the hirer asking for a written statement.

The hirer must reply in writing within 28 days, outlining all relevant information about the rights of a comparable worker or employee and providing reasons for the different treatment of agency workers. The hirer may be able to objectively justify the different treatment of agency workers.

If your complaint relates to equal treatment on pay, holidays or working time entitlements, you should write to the agency first. Note that you cannot make a request until you have completed the 12-week qualifying period.

The agency has 28 days to respond in writing, confirming:

  • relevant information about basic working and employment conditions relevant to the request – for example, details about pay rates / scales and the holiday entitlements of directly employed staff;
  • relevant information or factors that were taken into account when determining your basic working and employment conditions; and
  • where equal treatment is based on an existing comparable employee, relevant terms and conditions that apply to that employee, and an explanation of the reasons for any differences in treatment (e.g. different skills, qualifications, experience, etc.).

If you do not receive a written response within 30 days of making the request, you can write to the hirer directly and request the same information from them. The hirer has 28 days to respond from the date they received your request.

Before issuing a claim in the employment tribunal, you must submit your claim for Acas early conciliation. For more information, see our section on Enforcing Your Rights.

The above summary sets out how to enforce your individual rights in an employment tribunal. However, issuing a tribunal claim may not be a viable option for many workers.

Another way forward is to organise to build union membership at the agency where you work, so that a union can apply for recognition at the agency. A trade union will be able to bargain for decent terms and conditions on behalf of all workers, making it much harder for your agency to exploit loopholes to avoid providing decent terms and conditions.

If you are not yet a trade union member, you can find information about how to join a union – and how to get support organising to secure union recognition from your employer – on our Union Finder tool.

You may also want to make a complaint to the regulator. Depending on the nature of your complaint, consider contacting:

•    the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate;
•    the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority; 
•    the HMRC national minimum wage enforcement team.

You might also consider reporting your agency to the industry body, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.


Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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