By Marcus Leach

Businesses should brace themselves for a shock from 1 October when agency workers see their rights extended under the new Agency Workers Regulations 2010, according to an employment law firm.

Bibby Consulting pointed out that while agency workers have historically had limited rights in respect of employment the new regulations could make a massive difference to how companies use temporary workers.

Essentially, the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 seek to afford agency workers equality of treatment to that of permanent staff, called 'day one rights' and '12 week rights'.

From day one agency workers will be entitled to access collective facilities and amenities of the hirer such as canteen and child care facilities and transport services and will have to be told of any direct job opportunities that are available.

But it is after 12 weeks that the most noticeable changes apply. Agency workers will get the same rights as directly employed staff regarding working hours, night work, rest periods and annual leave, not already afforded under the Working Time Regulations 1998. And they will be entitled to be paid at the same rates as if they worked directly for the company, including certain commission and bonuses.

Also, should temporary workers feel their rights under the new regulations have been breached, they will be able to take their case to an employment tribunal and remedies could include compensatory payments.

"If you are an employment agency or an organisation that uses or plans on using agency staff, you really need to understand how the regulations will impact on you," Michael Slade of Bibby Consulting said.

"Should employers not familiarise themselves with these new rules they could be in for quite a shock when seeking temporary workers because they may be faced with additional expenditure in an already tight economic climate.

"Also, employment agencies and employers could be leaving their companies exposed to employment tribunal claims for breaching a worker's rights by non-compliance. As such, it is imperative that businesses ensure every manager responsible for the hiring of staff is fully up to speed with the changes.

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