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The Benefits Of Employing Agency Workers and Contractors

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 13 Jan 2016 | comments*Discuss
Agency Workers Contractors Rights

Agency workers are 'employed' by an agency which finds them jobs. The firm who's hiring the worker pays a fee to the agency and the agency pays the employee their wages.

Are Agency Workers Entitled to the Same Benefits as a Permanent Staff?

In many cases, agency workers are not entitled to the same perks as permanent members of staff and may not get the same holiday entitlements or sick pay provision. You should check the contract with your agency (as they are, in effect, your employer) to see what you're entitled to. Unless you are being unlawfully discriminated against, there is not much you can do if you receive fewer perks or benefits than permanent members of staff.

Agency workers have the same rights as every other member of staff when it comes to matters such as Health & Safety and other legally binding Policies on Discrimination, for example. They must be given full training in health, safety and emergency procedures, given Safety Protection Clothes and equipment if required and the same level of training in how to use equipment that is of relevance to their job. If they are working using a VDU/computer for example, they are also entitled to the same rest breaks away from the screen as permanent members of staff in accordance with Health & Safety Regulations. They also get the same amount of rest break entitlements as other staff members if their shift is 6 hours or more.

Importance of Agency Staff

It's important to remember that agency workers are of great value to employers and there has been rapid growth in the number of firms taking on agency workers over the past few years with the transition to a 24 hour day, 7 day a week economy. They can be deployed to cope with unforeseen demand, cover sickness, holiday absence and maternity leave and provide extra support due to seasonal demand like the Christmas rush.

As such, employers today highly value the contributions made by agency workers and, thus, a good employer will often ensure that any temporary agency staff are given the same benefits, rights, training and support as permanent staff members even though they have no legal obligations in these issues to do so as the agency worker is 'employed' by the agency and not the place where they work. Employers and agency workers both benefit as it is quite common for an employer to use the opportunity to gauge the skills and personal qualities of an agency worker performing a role to subsequently offer them a permanent staff job later. Employees also benefit here as they can use their agency period as a stepping stone to go on and obtain a staff position with the company or to use the experience gained in order to find a permanent staff position elsewhere.

Contract Workers

Contract workers come in various forms. They differ from agency workers in that they are paid by the employer direct and not an agency. They can be self-employed freelancers who offer their services to several companies simultaneously or to one company for a pre-determined length of time (usually called a fixed term contract) and can negotiate their own terms and conditions of employment directly with the employer.

Advantages of Using a Contractor

Contractors provide added flexibility when a company requires it. They can come in and do one off jobs or provide a service which no other member of the staff can provide. They can often begin work at short notice which helps employers meet a sudden demand. As an employer, you are not responsible for their PAYE, tax or national insurance administration.

Disadvantages of Using a Contractor

They may cost the business more than the employee equivalent day rate. Permanent staff may resent the contractor's presence if they are being paid more for doing similar work. Contractors may not appreciate your business culture and may lack the motivation or commitment of permanent members of staff.

Contractors' Rights

Contractors will usually have the same rights and conditions as other members of staff with regard to paid leave and holiday entitlements, alongside their fundamental rights to health and safety and anti-discriminatory policies.

Good and Bad

The one thing in common with agency workers and contractors is that they come in "all shapes and sizes". In other words, there are good ones and bad ones. The good ones can truly help a company thrive when times are difficult and a company is in desperate need of additional help and support and they can often be highly motivated, some seizing upon the opportunity to gain valuable experience and may even see the role as a stepping stone to a permanent job with a company. Others may resent the fact that the role is not permanent, they might lack motivation and commitment and can be detrimental to a company's business.

On the positive side, however, careful vetting and limited liability means that an employer can minimise the risks and can often end up with an additional member of the team that can make a highly significant contribution to a company.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
@dinky. You will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay from your employer if you stay. If you cannot work due to illhealth you may be able to a claim benefit like Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The Turn2Us website has abenefits calculator that will help you.
SafeWorkers - 9-Jun-15 @ 10:22 AM
I am going to have to leave my employment after long term illness. I am now receiving palliative care and unablle to go back to work if I terminate my employment as a result of this who do I contact to receive sick benefir etc when stopped via employer
dinky - 5-Jun-15 @ 10:19 AM
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