The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (AWR) are designed to tackle discrimination against agency workers in the workplace and the low pay, and holiday and working time conditions they are frequently engaged on. The Regulations give temporary agency workers the following rights.
From day one of an assignment, temporary agency workers have a right to:
equal access to collective facilities provided by the hirer (such as canteens, staff rooms, toilet and shower facilities, workplace crèches, car parking and transport services); and
information about, and the opportunity to apply for, vacancies in the hirer's workplace.
After 12 weeks (the 'qualifying period') in the same role with the same hirer, temporary agency workers have the right to:
equal treatment on pay, holidays and working time; and
improved pregnancy rights.
These rights only apply to temporary agency workers. They do not apply to those seeking permanent work through an agency, nor do they apply to the genuinely self-employed who are running their own business.
Employers used to be able to escape temporary agency workers’ rights to equal pay (but not equal holidays and working time) by using a mechanism known as the ‘Swedish derogation’ which involved employees being paid a minimum amount (at least the National Minimum Wage) between each assignment.
In April 2020, this ‘Swedish derogation’ exemption was abolished, in a major victory for the trade union movement. It is no longer possible for employers to exclude agency workers’ equal pay rights by providing ‘pay-between-assignments’ contracts.