By Liz Iles, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner

Now that the new Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) have come into force, Croner is urging businesses that rely on agency workers to consider the impact this will have on their company. The new law requires employers to give agency workers the same basic rights as full-time employees after 12 weeks. If employers fail to comply, they can leave themselves open to employment tribunal claims.

The advice comes after Croner, the UK’s largest provider of workplace information, software and services, found that too few employers are consulting its specialist employment advisory service on the subject.

“The comparative silence is a cause of concern,” says Liz Iles, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner. “Analysis of our call data reveals that less than 1% of incoming calls over the last 12 months have asked about the new regulations. Bearing in mind that we had over 200,000 calls to our employment advice lines in the last year this is worrying. It means a large proportion of businesses that use agency workers were very probably ill-prepared for the 1 October deadline.”

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 came into force on 1 October 2011. From this date, agency workers have the right to “equal treatment” after 12 weeks in an assignment. They apply to the triangular relationship where individuals are contracted with a temporary work agency and supplied by that agency to work temporarily under the supervision and direction of a hirer.

According to a government report released in October 2008, the manufacturing, transport and financial services sectors are the most likely to use agency workers, in particular those employing 55 or more employees.

“All businesses should be aware of their obligations in relation to the Regulations,” adds Liz. “However if they rely on agency workers they should take action now to avoid future tribunal claims. The main issue for those businesses will be that, after the first 12 weeks on an assignment, the agency worker is now entitled to the same basic working and employment conditions as if they had been recruited directly by the hirer on day one of the assignment.

“There are also ‘Day-1’ rights that agency workers are entitled to, such as access to a canteen, crèche or other childcare facilities and transport services. Although in the main, any business that regularly utilises agency staff would not normally restrict their use of these facilities. If employers are wondering what they should be doing now, they are faced with a choice of two options. They can take the hit of the extra cost and administrative burden and comply with the regulations, ensuring that the rights guaranteed to agency workers are available from day one. Alternatively, the employer could stop using agency workers, accept more staff overtime and rely on casual workers and contractors.”

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