Tuesday, 1 October 2013

AWR: all your questions answered

Today marks two years since the Agency Workers’ Regulations (AWR) were implemented.  

Since then, we’ve seen waves of positive and negative press, as well as reports of the scheme having much less impact than anticipated.  So, for those who aren’t aware, the new legislation gave agency workers the same basic working conditions as those recruited directly – if, and when, they had been in the same job for more than 12 weeks. 

If you’re new to AWR – or haven’t quite got your head around it yet – here are the answers to our most frequently asked questions (drawing on the Department for Business Innovation & Skills’ official Agency Workers Regulations Guidance and discussions with industry bodies):

Who is AWR relevant to?
Temporary agency workers
Individuals or companies who supply temporary workers
Hirers.

Who is an agency worker in the UK?
Someone who has a contract with a temporary work agency (an employment contract or one to perform work personally) but works temporarily for, and under the direction and supervision of, a hirer. 

You’re not covered if...
You find work through an agency but are in business in your own account – in other words, if the hirer is actually your client or customer instead of the agency’s
If you’re working on a contract where you’re not under the supervision of the hirer
If you’re part of an in-house temporary staffing bank
If you found direct employment with the help of an agency
If you’re on secondment from one company to another

So I get equal treatment.  What does that cover?
From day one, you’ll get access to facilities and recruitment information.  After 12 weeks, terms and conditions are just as favourable as those employed directly.  This covers key elements of pay, working hours, night work, rest periods and annual leave.

Are there any exemptions?
Yes – the TWA can offer the worker a permanent contract of employment and pay between assignments, if there are no suitable assignments or they’re not working, for example.  There are detailed rules that cover this.  But it means after 12 weeks in the job the worker won’t be entitled to the same pay as if they’d been directly recruited.  Your TWA will explain this and you’ll be able to make an informed decision of whether you’d like to forgo the entitlement and enter a permanent contract.

What if my irregular work patterns make the 12-weeks impossible to achieve?
The regulations look at the qualifying period as a clock running from zero to 12.  A gap between assignments or move to a new one reset the clock to zero.  But in some situations a break pauses the clock – due to illness, annual leave or jury duty, for example – and it continues ticking when the worker returns.  In very select circumstances, it can keep ticking even if the worker isn’t on an assignment – a planned shutdown by the hirer, for example.

What if I’m pregnant or a new mother?
If you’re pregnant you’ll get paid time off for antenatal appointments and classes.

Can I work through multiple TWAs?
It’s essential that correct hirer information is supplied from one TWA to another where there are intermediaries involved in the supply of a worker, such as master or neutral vendor arrangements or umbrella companies.  In the event of a claim, the tribunal would decide which party was responsible for any breach to the extent that it responsible for the infringement.

What about umbrella companies?
They are classed as TWAs under the regulations.

If I think my entitlements have been infringed, what can I do?
You’re entitled to information about your entitlements, depending on the type of equal treatment you’re asking about.  Talk to your TWA in the first instance as they’ll often be able to sort out problems without going into formal procedures. 

Click here to print, download or save Primat Recruitment’s full-length foolproof guide.