I have heard agency workers refer to the Swedish derogation. What is this?

Under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010, there is one exemption from the right to equal pay (but not to equal treatment on holidays and working time).

This is known as the Swedish derogation because when the Agency Workers Directive was being negotiated in Europe, the Swedish government asked for a special exemption, to reflect normal practice in the use of agency workers in Sweden.

Some employers have been abusing the Swedish derogation exemption to escape their equal pay obligations. But not for much longer.

Following union campaigning, including a formal complaint brought by the TUC to the European Commission, the government has announced that the Swedish derogation loophole will be closed from April 2020. From this point, employers that try to avoid paying equal pay by using the “Swedish derogation” will be breaking the law. Speak to your union rep to find out more.     

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.

What is WorkSmart?

A career coach that works for everyone.


Enjoy bite-sized activities delivered to you every week.

Lightbulb brain

Equip yourself with essential skills to be the best you yet.


Get the guidance you need to stay focused and reach your goals.

Worksmart circle