AGENCY workers are often unaware of their rights and are afraid to assert them, according to a new report.
An analysis of the 900,000 calls to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) helpline in 2014 revealed that almost one in five came under the category of ‘contracts’ – with many callers expressing concern about the security of their employment.
Acas’ report ‘Three Sides to Every Story: The Impact of Agency Worker Regulations’ (published this month) includes examples of workers who were:
- Coerced into working with vulnerable adults without receiving training in safeguarding and Direct Payments.
- Fined £50 for taking sick leave
- On assignment for four years and not knowing they were entitled to the same rights as a permanent employee
In addition to confusion over their contractual arrangements, callers reported an ‘imbalance of power’, which made them afraid of asserting their statutory rights.
Brendan Barber, Acas’ chair, said: “Some workers also complained that they were asked to take on tasks that they were not qualified to handle, and employers wanting to ignore the law so that they could sack people immediately.”
People Management reported that Kevin Green, the chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) had expressed his disappointment at how Acas had chosen to present the issue – stating that the report is based on just 967 calls.
“That’s out of 1.15 million agency workers who are out on assignments on any given day. Although we must all work together to ensure workers are treated fairly, it’s important to understand this context,” he said.
“It’s really disappointing to see the way that Acas have presented this issue. Recruiters are bound by regulations to make individuals aware of their rights and contractual terms – and the REC goes further still. We set a compliance standard for our members that goes over and above the regulatory requirements.
‘As Office of National Statistics data shows, the majority of people don’t take on temporary work as a second-best to permanent work, but choose to work in this way to fit work around other commitments.
‘Our own research has found that agency workers value the opportunity to get work quickly; the ability to fit work around their family; or are using temporary assignments to pick up skills and experience they can’t get elsewhere.”
He added that while most workers were better off as a result of the Agency Worker Regulations: “There will be always examples of people having bad experiences in a temporary assignment, as there will be plenty of examples of permanent jobs not working out.”