We recently held an Employment Law Summit with Roythornes Solicitors where the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) was one of the topics covered. To a packed room I presented on “AWR – one year on”, taking a look at how this has affected businesses since it came into force one year ago today.
For anyone who doesn’t already know, the AWR was introduced to give agency workers the right to equal treatment in terms of pay, leave and working time – when doing the same work as a permanent member of staff (‘comparable employee’). All the agency worker needs to do is to complete a 12 week qualifying period of continuous work with the same hirer in the same role.
Some law firms are now already looking to capitalise on the fact that workers can claim up to £5,000 in compensation if they can prove they have been treated differently at work. Have a look at http://www.awrclaim.com/.
Given the massive impact of AWR on the temporary recruitment market, Stafforce was well ahead of the game, working with some clients as much as three years in advance to ensure we and they would be compliant and could satisfy the regulations. However, there is clearly still a lack of understanding in the market about the regulations and there have been some reports of ‘pay between assignments’ being avoided – which could potentially lead to expensive compensation claims by agency workers.
At Stafforce we are continuing to help employers to put a strategy in place for agency staff, in order to minimise risks and remain compliant. In some cases it may mean increasing overtime, rather than using agency workers; in others this simply isn’t an option to cover the peak seasons of a business – particularly in the food sector.
It is satisfying to know that because we were well prepared, and advised our clients on the upcoming regulations well in advance, the impact of the AWR on their businesses has been far less than might have been. Prior to October last year we carried out more than 80 client AWR briefings and around 500 impact assessments. In doing so, we worked alongside HR, finance and operational teams to develop a response to AWR that worked best for each client. We also sought guidance from QCs on AWR and made recommendations to the advisors appointed by Government. We also introduced an AWR handbook and online resource to help clients and their HR teams to understand and prepare for the regulations.
Having a strong and accurate knowledge base is important and there are instances where incorrect information has been provided about workers, or agencies have given bad advice, which could lead the hirers being liable for the consequences.
Companies therefore need to ensure they are clear on the regulations, or they may find they are not giving their temporary workers pay parity or equal rights, putting themselves at risk.
For anyone who does not have a strategy in place for dealing with AWR, or who may need this reviewing, we are currently delivering post-AWR advice and prognosis sessions to businesses.