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Changes for Agency Workers

By Sian Fisher

Big changes are fast approaching for the recruitment industry, with the implementation of the Agency Workers (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2011 These regulations will come into effect in Northern Ireland on the 5th December 2011.

This legislation is designed to provide agency workers with equal treatment to permanent employees with regard to pay and working conditions, after 12 weeks of service in the same job.

The legislation will apply to temporary agency workers on a temporary contract working through an employment business, such as a recruitment agency. The Regulations will not apply to permanent or fixed-term employees, or self-employed workers.

What do the Regulations mean in practice?

After being in the same role for 12 weeks, agency workers will be afforded equal pay and employment conditions, as if they had been hired directly into that role by the Hirer. In addition to equal pay and working conditions for agency workers and their permanent employee counter-parts, the Regulations provide for entitlement to access to on-site facilities, such as crèche facilities, canteens and collective car parking. Workers will also have the right to be informed of any relevant vacancies within the Hirer’s organisation.

Agency workers will be entitled to, amongst other things, the same basic hourly or daily rate of pay, commission payments, holiday entitlements, overtime and working conditions. The Regulations will not however extend to, for example, occupational sick pay, maternity or paternity pay, redundancy payments or pension contributions.

Employers should review their existing arrangements for engaging temporary workers. They should also provide recruitment agencies with up to date information on their terms and conditions, to ensure that agency workers will receive equal treatment to those employees who are recruited directly by the employer. Employers should also make sure that all agency workers are allowed to use collective facilities, and are able to access information on any relevant job vacancies from the first day of working.

These Regulations are not retrospective, and so workers will only start to accrue entitlement to equal treatment from the 5th December 2011. Temporary workers will be able to ask the recruitment agency for information relating to equal treatment provisions once they have been in the same role for 12 weeks.

For more information on the Agency Workers (NI) Regulations, see the Department of Employment and Learning’s website at, or contact the Labour Relations Agency on 028 9032 1442. For further guidance, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Sian Fisher is an Information Officer with Citizens Advice.

Belfast Telegraph


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