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Employment Expert Warns Firms Of ‘Risky’ Agency Worker Strategy

Companies Considering Plans Over Employee Rights


Businesses have been warned to take great care after concerns were raised about the number of firms looking to limit the amount of time agency workers stay in positions in order to avoid giving them certain rights.

With changes to regulations on agency workers expected to be introduced in October, companies have been considering how they will react when efforts are made to level the playing field between permanent and agency staff.

The issue has now been brought into the spotlight again, with the release of research suggesting some firms are set to cut the amount of time agency workers are employed in order to prevent them from reaching 12 weeks in a role, as this would mean they get the same pay, overtime and breaks as permanent staff doing the same role.

Other businesses polled in the study stated they would avoid approaching temporary staff at all.

Commenting on the suggestions, Ed Cotton, a Partner and employment specialist at Irwin Mitchell, advised firms to be careful when considering this kind of approach as measures are in place which could lead them into problems.

He explained: “Terminating after 11 weeks is a risky strategy as the legislation in this area does contain anti-avoidance provisions, which can be used to penalise hirers who intentionally structure assignments with a view to depriving agency workers of their entitlements.”

Ed added that the decision on this issue would ultimately lie with an employment tribunal.

He outlined: “It will ultimately be for a tribunal to decide whether the pattern of assignments indicated an intention to deliberately deprive the worker of his or her rights.

“Tribunals will have the ability to fine up to £5,000 for breach of the anti-avoidance provisions.  Because of this, we would urge companies to take sensible steps when hiring agency workers to ensure they have systems in place that avoid such problems in the workplace.”