As the introduction of the new Agency Workers Regulations (AWR),UK’s largest recruiter suggests that confusion among employers is still rife, with many misinterpreting the regulations and the impact they will have on the hiring of agency staff.

From the 1st October this year, organisations hiring agency workers for assignments that will continue beyond 12 weeks will be required to offer these workers terms and conditions (relating to some aspects of pay, hours of work and holidays) that are no less favourable than those they would have offered if the worker had been hired directly by the company. However, according to the Adecco Group, many employers have misunderstood the exact terms of the regulations and, as a result, assume that they will need to offer agency staff salaries above and beyond what the regulations require.

To comply with the regulations, the hirer must offer an agency worker relevant rights no less favourable than those that would have been offered from day one, had the agency worker concerned been hired direct to carry out the same job. In other words, they are entitled to be treated the same as a new starter hired directly by the company. This does not mean that an agency worker will necessarily get the same rights as someone already working within the organisation who simply has the same job title or job role. Existing employees who have the same job title may have been with the organisation for a number of years and are likely to have built up additional benefits and/or pay increases over this time. An agency worker joining the organisation would not immediately qualify for these accrued benefits.

The Adecco Group warns that another important issue that is in danger of being overlooked is that these equal treatment rights apply only to terms and conditions that are ‘ordinarily included’ in contracts of employment for employees within the organisation. As the Government’s official guidance confirms, this is likely to mean that the right to equal treatment with respect to pay will not apply if an organisation negotiates pay on an individual basis and has neither a pay scale nor a ‘going rate’ for different job titles/positions.

Andy Smith, Head of Regulation and Employment Law, Adecco Group, UK & Ireland, comments:
“Employers are in serious danger of inadvertently gold plating the new regulations, because they have misinterpreted what the regulations actually mean for the hiring of agency staff. It’s not as simple as finding someone within your organisation with the same job title or job role and then matching the agency worker’s pay and benefits to this individual. Longer term employees are likely to have built up their salary package over time and companies are not compelled to simply offer the same terms to a new agency hire. Also, it should not be assumed that the right to equal treatment will always apply.

“These simple mistakes could cost business dearly and in some cases could impact negatively on the future recruitment of agency workers, as employers shy away from the use of agency staff due to misconceptions about increased costs and the perceived burden of the regulations. Agency workers have a key role to play within the UK workforce, with thousands of businesses benefiting from the flexible approach they afford. It is essential that the new regulations do not impact negatively on the employment of this vital section of the workforce. Recruiters such as Adecco are best placed to help employers find the right solutions to negotiate this new legislation so that they can continue to make the best use of the flexibility that the temporary workforce affords.”