Agency staff gain equal rights on pay and holidays
New legislation providing equal treatment for Northern Ireland's 22,000 agency workers has been introduced.
The Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 allow agency workers to have the same basic working and employment conditions that they would be entitled to if they had been employed directly by the company they are working in.
In a UK-wide derogation, which follows an agreement between the Trades Union Congress and employers' organisation the CBI, the new rights apply after the agency worker has completed 12 weeks in the same job with the same business.
But the directive applies in the Republic and elsewhere in the EU without any period of qualification.
Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry said: "For the first time, temporary agency workers can expect to be treated the same as their directly hired colleagues in relation to basic working and employment conditions, including pay and holidays.
"This change in the law is intended to ensure fairness for agency workers when compared to the directly hired employees with whom they work." But Eugene McGlone, the president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), said there was an incorrect assumption that the derogation should be applied in Northern Ireland.
He said the relevant social partner in Northern Ireland for negotiations over the derogation was the northern committee of ICTU and not the TUC, which had negotiated the 12 week qualification period with the CBI.