Under the Agency Worker Regulations which came into force in 2011, agency workers have the right to equal pay and other basic working conditions as comparable permanent employees after a 12 week qualifying period. If they are not offered this, liability will normally fall on the recruitment agency, but if the agency which supplied the worker to the hirer can show that it acted reasonably to ensure equal treatment, including by seeking relevant information from the hirer, it will be the hirer and not the recruitment agency which will be liable if the agency worker’s claim is successful.
The Agency Worker Regulations have resulted in surprisingly few Tribunal claims, as we reported back in 2012, but in the recent case of Miss G Stevens v Northolt High School and Teach 24 Limited, Georgia Stevens was supplied as a music teacher to Northolt High School through Teach 24 Limited. She brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal alleging that she was not being given the same basic working and employment conditions as a comparable direct recruit after her twelve week qualifying period and this claim was upheld. She was awarded compensation of more than £10,000.
The Employment Tribunal had to decide how payment of the compensation should be apportioned between Northolt High School and Teach 24 Limited. It considered that the repeated requests from Teach 24 Limited to the school for comparator information amounted to reasonable steps to obtain relevant information for the purposes of a defence to Georgia Stevens’ claim. Consequently, Northolt High School was held to be liable for the full amount of the compensation.
This case is a useful reminder to those who use agency workers that they should not ignore or avoid requests from the recruitment agency for information regarding comparators who are directly employed. As Northolt High School discovered, doing so can prove costly.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).