For organisations occupying both the private and public sectors, agency workers play a pivotal role in filling the gaps caused by the crunch of budget cuts.
But the benefits of temporary work aren’t restricted to employers. In fact, taking on a short-term job can be a great way to gain skills and experience without the commitment of a full-time contract. As well as increased flexibility and control over your working hours, agency work allows you to test the waters and explore various career options by getting a ‘temping taster’ of what’s to come.
However, without a permanent contract in place, it can be difficult to determine your employment rights, and where you stand in comparison to full-time staff. Here’s what you need to know:
1. General treatment
You may not have spent the last five years developing relationships in your current place of work, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to equal treatment. From the moment you start work, you should be granted access to the same facilities and services as permanent staff - be it a canteen, a break-out area, car parking or a dedicated mother and baby room. Further to this, temp workers should receive immediate protection against discrimination, unfair treatment or harassment in the workplace, regardless of their employment status.
Working in a temporary role does not threaten your rights as a worker to receive the relevant National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, according to your age group. By law, you will also be protected from any unreasonable deductions to your pay and have the right to be paid on time in the method agreed prior.
However, as an agency worker, certain employment rights will only take effect after you have completed 12 weeks in the same job. From this point onwards, you will have the right to equal pay (the same pay as a permanent colleague doing the same job). Unless you have agreed to a pay-between-assignments contract, you will be entitled to performance-related bonuses, commission, overtime pay, holiday pay and allowances for working shifts or unsociable hours, just like your full-time colleagues.
3. Holiday rights
Everyone deserves time off, whether they’ve been loyal to the same company for years, or are working on a temporary basis. Just like permanent staff, temp workers are entitled to the minimum statutory 5.6 weeks of paid holiday in each 'leave year’, a period that begins from the onset of the first assignment. All holiday must be taken before the leave year ends, but will be paid for by the company, just as it would with a full-time member of staff.
Your agency may have specific rules surrounding the notice period needed for a successful holiday request: if not, assume that the notice period should be twice as long as the length of paid holiday requested. After 12 weeks, you will be entitled to any additional holiday the rest of the team receive.
4. Sick pay
Try as you might, working through sickness is not recommended. As well as potentially infecting other members of staff, you’re unlikely to perform to the best of your ability when under the weather. Calling in sick can be nerve-wracking, even for a full-timer. However, as an agency worker, the uncertainty can make matters worse. Will you get paid if you take time off from a temp job?
According to UK law, statutory sick pay must be granted after the initial 12-week period. As well as this, temp workers have the right to know the exact process surrounding sick leave, such as who to call and the time-frame they have to do so.
As a temporary worker, your rights may not always be as clear cut as your full-time counterparts. Should you have a question or concern, your first port of call should always be your manager. While you may not be a permanent member of staff, it’s their duty to ensure your rights are respected at all times.
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