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Employment agency workers

What are employment agencies?

Employment agencies provide workers to hirers on a short-term basis or to perform a specific piece of work. There is no limit on the number of employment agencies that you can register with. 

Your rights as a worker for an employment agency

As an employment agency worker you have rights from the first day that you start work.  These include

  • Being paid the National Minimum Wage
  • Working Time Rights – including breaks and holidays and a limit on the working week
  • Health and Safety Protection
  • The right to join a trade union.
  • Protection against discrimination on the grounds of gender, race (includes nationality), disability, age, religion, sexual orientation and being, or not being, a trade union member.

Getting Paid

Employment agencies cannot withhold your pay, even if they haven’t been paid by the hirer.  It is the agency’s responsibility to ensure that you are paid for all the hours that you have worked.  If a hirer refuses to sign a timesheet, it is the responsibility of the employment agency to find out how many hours you worked and pay you.

We strongly recommend that you record the hours that you have worked including start time, finish time and any breaks. The Vulnerable Workers project can provide Time Record Notebooks to assist you in this.

If a labour provider is refusing to pay you for work you have done you should seek advice from your trade union or an advice agency. You can contact the Vulnerable Workers Project to find out who best to contact.

Rights for Employees

Often the employer that your employment agency places you with will assess your performance with them. If they are happy with your performance, they may offer you the opportunity to apply for a vacancy when one arises.  If you are successful in getting the job you will move from being a temporary worker to an employee. Your employment agency cannot stop you doing this.

Employment agencies can charge a fee to the hirer that you work for if the hirer makes you permanent.  This charge should only be paid by the hirer.

It is illegal for a labour providers to charge you for finding you work. If this happens you should report it to the Vulnerable Workers Pilot,  your trade union or the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate – see useful contacts.

As an employee you will be entitled to more rights including

  • The right to claim unfair dismissal after a year
  • The right to redundancy pay
  • The right to take maternity, paternity and parental leave and request flexible working
  • Paid time off for antenatal checks

Some useful things to remember

Always check your contract and any other documents that you are given from your employer.  Make sure that you understand these documents before you agree to anything.  Don’t be afraid to ask the labour provider if you don’t understand something or are unsure about anything at work

Never give your passport to anyone else.  The labour provider will want to look at it to confirm your identity and to check that you are able to work in the UK.  They will need to copy it, but make sure you don’t leave it with the labour provider.

You can find out more about the above employment rights elsewhere in this information pack.

© Trades Union Congress 2007