Employers in a variety of sectors make use of temporary agency workers ("temps") as a flexible and cost effective away of fulfilling their temporary staffing needs. Typically the worker is provided by an employment business and there is no direct contractual relationship with the hirer/client.

The UK Agency Worker Regulations 2010 shall come into force from 1 October 2011 from which time:

  • After a 12 week qualifying period, agency workers will be entitled to the same "basic working conditions" as they would ordinarily have been entitled had they been directly employed by the hirer/client.
  • An agency worker is an individual with a contract of employment or employment relationship with a temporary work agency who is assigned to a hirer/client to work temporarily under the hirer's/client's supervision and direction.
  • Employees of outsourced service providers will not be agency workers (as they are not under the supervision of the client/agency) although those who provide their services through personal service companies may be.
  • The equality principle only applies to "basic working and employment conditions" which include pay (widely defined to include performance bonuses, commission or holiday pay), duration of working time, length of night work, rest periods, rest breaks and annual leave. It excludes occupational sick pay, pension, severance, maternity pay or participation in financial participation schemes (such as share option schemes), benefits or loyalty/retention bonuses.
  • The provision in the draft version of the regulations that would have allowed a client/hirer to justify less favourable treatment if an agency worker's contract, taken as a whole, is at least as favourable as that of a comparator, has been removed from the final regulations.
  • There is a limited exception that applies if the agency worker is employed by the employment business between assignments.

Employers should review the arrangements whereby they engage agency workers and the terms upon which they engage them in preparation for 1 October 2011.