The Agency Worker Regulation (AWR) is a fairly new legislation that was introduced nearly three years ago.
From 1st October 2011, temporary workers, such as contractors and umbrella company contractors were protected and given the same rights as permanent workers (with regards to basic pay and working conditions). Limited company contractors outside of IR35 are not affected by the AWR legislation.
These rights must be based on those of a similar worker – this means someone who is directly employed by the same hirer to do the same job, at the same time.
However, in order to be entitled to certain benefits, such as receiving the National Minimum Wage and paid holiday, you will need to pass the ‘qualifying period’.
How do you qualify?
In order to qualify, you need to have worked in the same job with the same hirer for a total of 12 weeks – if you have had any breaks between jobs these can count either towards the qualifying period, can pause it, or even reset it to zero.
An example of a break that would count towards your qualifying period, is pregnancy, or taking paternity leave. Taking part in jury service or being off work because of sickness would cause this period of time to pause; and if you were to move to a new hirer or to start a ‘substantively different’ role with the same hirer, this would result in your qualifying period being set again at zero.
A ‘substantively different’ role could mean using different skills, having a change in pay rate, location or working hours.
As a temporary agency worker/ contractor you are entitled to:
• Paid holiday (bank holidays may be included in your holiday entitlement - check with your agency)
• Rest breaks and limits on working time
• No unlawful deductions from wages
• The National Minimum Wage
• Freedom from discrimination under equality legislation
• Protection under health and safety laws
• Details of job vacancies with your hirer
• The same access to shared facilities and services at work as other comparable employees.
These might include: access to a canteen or food and drinks machines, a workplace crèche or mother and baby room, car parking or transport services, a staff common room or a prayer room.
According to the government, your hirer can only refuse you access to facilities if they can ‘objectively justify’ denying you access. Using cost as an excuse is not usually considered a justified reason.
AWR and pay
When it comes to being paid under the AWR legislation, you are very much entitled to at least the National Minimum Wage.
It’s worth noting that your recruitment agency can delay paying you if they’re looking into the amount of hours that you have worked, but only for a ‘reasonable’ amount of time.
They must also pay you for any work that you have done, even if they haven’t yet been paid by the company hiring you; if a company isn’t happy with your work, the agency must still pay you, as this is a contractual matter between them.