Agency workers

31 March 2009

Information for agency worker members of UCU.

Agency Workers Regulations 2010

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 came into force on 1 October 2011. The regulations introduce 'day 1 rights' which agency workers are entitled to now and from the first day of every assignment and 'equal treatment' rights that kick in after 12 weeks with the same hire in a similar role. 

'Day 1 rights' are:

  • access to all facilities and amenities provided for directly employed workers such as canteen, staffroom, childcare facilities, sporting and social facilities, etc. Employers must provide objective justification for blocking access
  • information on job vacancies at the hirers workplace.

'Equal treatment' entitlements after 12 weeks in the same job with same hirer:

  • key elements of pay
  • normal working hours
  • rest periods and breaks
  • annual leave
  • paid time for ante-natal appointments.

However 'equal treatment' does not include:

  • contractual sick pay
  • pensions
  • enhanced maternity, paternity or adoption pay
  • bonuses which are not connected to an individual's performance          
  • enhanced redundancy pay
  • advances in pay or loans
  • expenses
  • share ownership schemes, etc
  • benefits in kind.

The 12 week qualifying period for equal treatment rights does not have to be continuous although any break must be for less than 6 weeks (during which time the accrual of the 12 weeks will pause). The accrual of 12 weeks qualifying period will also be paused (rather than broken) due to regular and planned shutdown of the workplace, periods of sick leave, annual leave and absence due to jury service, even if longer than 6 weeks.

It is no longer possible for the employer to avoid offering equal pay after 12 weeks using a previous loophole known as the 'Swedish derogation'.

UCU supports more secure employment contracts and fair comparators for agency staff

Agency staff are advised to join the union now and keep accurate records of all their assignments so when their clock reaches 12 weeks they have all the information that their UCU branch will need to make sure they are getting their full rights and a fair comparator is used to determine their pay.

There will be a significant increase in the cost of using agency workers in many institutions where previously unregulated pay was lower than their directly employed counterparts. However since VAT was applied to the entire wage of an agency worker in April 2009 the cost of using agency staff has increased significantly. In the current funding environment institutions cannot justify paying good money after bad in agency fees and VAT on wages. There is a cheaper alternative that is more secure for the agency lecturers and less wasteful of precious funding: direct employment contracts.

Links to further information and guidance:

Last updated: 21 September 2021