Empowering the Freelance Economy

Temp and agency workers: are you taking advantage of your “equal treatment” rights?

After 12 weeks in a temp or agency job you have the same rights, salary and access to on-site creche facilities as salaried workers/ Photo by Ivan Samkov via Pexels
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From the day you start working as a temp or agency worker, you have a handful of workers’ employment rights. But did you know that once you work in the same job for 12 weeks (3 months) you have the same rights as someone employed directly? This is what the UK government calls “equal treatment”. The sooner you know your rights and access to services, the better off you will be. Just make sure you ask for them.

Despite what salaried staff may think or even say to you, you have the same rights as your permanent colleagues to use any shared facilities and services provided by your employer, for example:

  • a canteen or food and drinks machines
  • a workplace creche or mother and baby room
  • car parking or transport services, like a local pick-up service or transport between sites

Rights after 12 weeks

After 12 weeks in the role, you qualify for the same rights as someone employed directly.

Your rights include:

  • ‘equal pay’ – the same pay as a permanent colleague doing the same job
  • automatic pension enrolment
  • paid annual leave

A list of more rights can be found here.

How to count your 12-week period

Start counting your 12-week qualifying period from your first day at work. You do not have to be at work for 12 weeks in a row – some types of leave count and there can be breaks. Ask your line manager and agency about this when you are hired so things are crystal clear and in writing.

Do not count days on sick leave or a break

The qualifying period will pause for sick leave or breaks, according to the government.

Do not count the days when:

  • you take a break of 6 weeks or less
  • you’re on leave due to sickness or injury for up to 28 weeks
  • you take annual leave you’re entitled to
  • the workplace closes, for example for Christmas or industrial action
  • you’re on jury service for up to 28 weeks

Count time off for pregnancy, paternity or adoption

Your 12-week qualifying period will continue through the time off you have for:

If your leave is more than 12 weeks you’ll qualify for equal treatment when you return to work.

Start from zero for a new job or role

Your 12 weeks will start again if you:

  • get a new job at a different workplace
  • have a break of more than 6 weeks between jobs at the same workplace
  • stay at your workplace but take a new role that’s ‘substantively different’

A substantively different role is one that’s completely new, different work. It could be a combination of different:

  • skills, or requiring new training
  • pay rate
  • location
  • working hours

When you’re offered a job

The agency must give you a written statement that tells you:

  • your start date
  • how long the contract is likely to last: if over 12 weeks then you will now be aware of your equal treatment rights so can enquire and confirm about pay, etc.
  • the type of work
  • about any expenses you may have to pay
  • the location
  • your hours
  • about any health and safety risks
  • about any experience, training or qualifications needed for the role

More information can be found here on what your agency must give you

Some freelancers search for work that offers a fixed-term contract of say 6 to 12 months. This is often to cover the maternity leave of a salaried employee or to jump-start a project that requires specialist skills.

Here are some things you should know about Fixed-term employment contracts: What counts as a fixed-term contract – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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