What rights do agency workers have on working time?

You have the right not to work more than 48 hours a week (unless you choose to sign an agreement with the agency saying that you are willing to work longer hours). However, this limit is averaged over a 17-week period. This means that it is legal to work more than 48 hours in some weeks, so long as this is balanced out by weeks in which fewer hours are worked, making an average of not more than 48 hours over the whole 17 weeks.

Regular nightworkers should not work more than eight hours in each 24-hour period. The Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) allow (where there is a relevant workplace agreement in place) for nightwork to be averaged over a 17-week period in the same way as weekly hours of work. Nightworkers are also entitled to a free health assessment.

Where a nightworker’s job involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain, no averaging is allowed. Instead, the employer must ensure that no nightworker works more than eight hours in any 24 hour period that includes night work.

You have the right to a rest break of 20 minutes if your working day is longer than six hours. If you are under 18, however, you are entitled to a 30-minute break after working 4.5 hours.

In addition to their rights under the Working Time Directive, temporary agency workers have specific statutory rights under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010. Since 1 October 2011, temporary agency workers are entitled to equal treatment on working time with as a comparable direct hire employed by the hirer to do the same job. This right applies once they have worked in the same job for the same hirer for 12 weeks. This includes equal treatment on:

  • the length of your working time (e.g. you cannot be required to work longer shift patterns than the hirer's comparable employees);
  • rest breaks and rest periods (e.g. you are entitled to the same lunch breaks and breaks between shifts as the hirer's employees);
  • arrangements for booking and taking holiday;
  • nightwork, including the number of hours worked and rates of pay; and
  • pay during travel time during working hours, on-call pay and standby payments.
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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