Hundreds of thousands of agency workers across the UK will benefit from improved working conditions when the new equal treatment rights for temps come into effect on Saturday (1 October). Unlike fixed-term employees and part-time workers, until now agency workers have not had a right to the same pay and holiday rights as directly employed staff in the same workplace. This lack of rights has left them open to abuse, says the TUC.
Nearly half (46 per cent) of the agency workers who responded to a YouGov survey commissioned by the TUC said they received less holiday entitlement than permanent staff. One in three (33 per cent) reported getting less pay for doing the same work as directly employed staff and nearly one in three (28 per cent) said they lost out on overtime and unsocial hours payments. According to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), the average agency worker gets five days less holiday a year than permanent employees.
The LFS also found that temps earned on average 68 per cent of the pay of permanent workers - a 32 per cent pay gap.
However, following years of campaigning by unions, from 1 October agency workers will benefit from new, improved rights at work.
From the first day of an assignment, agency temps working in the private, public or voluntary sector will have a right to use any facilities provided by the hirer - such as a crèche, canteen or transport services. They will also be entitled to information about internal vacancies at the company they are working for, and to be given the opportunity to apply for them.
After 12 weeks in the same role with the same hirer, agency workers will be entitled to the same pay, holiday entitlement and working hours as permanent staff, and they will also receive improved maternity rights.
The TUC believes these rights will help stamp out some of the exploitation that agency temps have faced at work, will help young workers gain a stepping stone into permanent employment and protect the well-being of pregnant agency workers.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "These new rights for agency workers are an important step forward in helping the UK's hundreds of thousands of agency temps get a fairer deal at work.
"For too long, agency workers have faced discrimination at work. They are frequently paid less, are required to work excessive hours with no overtime pay, and are entitled to less holiday than directly employed workers doing exactly the same job.
"Some rogue employers have used temps to undermine the terms and conditions of existing workforces, replacing permanent staff with agency workers on lower pay, with no security, no training, no sick pay, minimum holidays and no pension provision.
"But thanks to hard campaigning by unions this is all about to change. Now, after 12 weeks in the same role with the same hirer, the law will require agency temps receive equal pay for the job they do and to receive some of the same rights as permanent staff working alongside them.
"Recruiting and treating our agency workers fairly will make them more motivated and more loyal to the companies they work for, which will benefit employers and make temping a more attractive option for working people."