Question: I need to recruit staff and am thinking of using the services of a recruitment agency, but is there a system of regulation in place for recruitment agencies in Northern Ireland?
Michael Donovan, employment agency inspector in the Department for Employment and Learning’s Employment Relations Division, replies:
A: Employment agencies in Northern Ireland do not have to be formally licensed, but they do have to comply with the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations (NI) 2005.
These regulations protect the interests of employers and work seekers that use employment agencies, and set certain minimum standards to which agencies must adhere.
The Department for Employment & Learning (DEL) has legal powers to enter premises and inspect the records of employment agencies and businesses that are based in Northern Ireland. DEL employment agency inspectors conduct routine inspections on agencies, but can also investigate complaints or allegations of non-compliance with the regulations and ensure that infringements of the legislation are rectified.
Inspectors generally arrange inspections by appointment, but they can enter and inspect employment agencies and businesses without notice.
Most agencies co-operate with inspectors and readily rectify any infringements identified.
However, agencies that refuse to comply with the regulations can be prohibited from operating for a maximum of 10 years or face a fine of up to £5,000. DEL is currently taking forward an employment bill which will enhance its powers of investigation and prosecution, by providing for unlimited fines rather than the current limit of £5,000.
To date, no prosecutions have been taken. However, DEL has successfully prohibited one agency from operating for two years.
Further information about the role of DEL and its employment agency inspectors can be found at www.delni.gov.uk/er .