Agency workers

While agency workers (often called 'temps') benefit from many employment rights, they will have different working rights from employees. As an agency worker, it's important to know your rights and the rules about the way employment agencies and employment businesses should treat you.

What an agency worker is

An agency worker works through an agency which finds them jobs.

As an agency worker you will either have a contract for services or a contract of employment with the agency who finds you work. This work is often called ‘temporary work’, 'temping' or ‘agency work’.

The firm who hires you pays a fee to the agency, and the agency pays your wages. The agency has to pay you even if the hiring company has not paid the agency.

Agencies cannot charge you for finding you work (although there are some exceptions in the entertainment or modelling industries).

There are several advantages to being an agency worker, you can:

  • use it as a stepping stone to the job you want
  • use it as a way of entering or re-entering the job market
  • use it to work more flexibly to help balance domestic responsibilities
  • move jobs easily and with little or no notice
  • try out different kinds of work

Flexibility for both worker and hiring company is one of the features of agency work.

As an agency worker you have the flexibility to take up and leave temporary work at short notice, but the hiring company also has the flexibility to finish temporary work without being liable for unfair dismissal or redundancy pay.

You should check your contract with your agency as it may include a notice period you may be obliged to give.

Your rights as an agency worker

Agency workers are usually considered to be ‘workers’ and not ‘employees’. Further information on the employment rights for workers and agency workers is available on the following page:

If there is a dispute about whether or not you’re an ‘employee’, an Industrial Tribunal will decide on the facts of the case.

Employment agencies and employment businesses

Employment businesses and employment agencies are different things:

  • a business that supplies you to carry out temporary work with a ‘hiring company’ is legally known as an 'employment business'
  • an ‘employment agency’ is a business that finds work for job-seekers who are then employed and paid by employers

In reality, many businesses deal with both finding temporary work and permanent employment and the term ‘agency’ is used for employment agencies and employment businesses.

Your agency should confirm with you if it is acting to find you a job with an employer or temporary work. If you're not sure if you're an agency worker you should check who pays you. If you're paid by the agency, then this makes you an agency worker.

Permanent recruitment through employment agencies

There are important differences between temporary agency workers, and people who have found a fixed-term or permanent job through an employment agency.

Companies often use an employment agency to find them suitable candidates for a job opening, and then hire someone based on the candidates put forward by the agency. In this situation, your employment contract would be with the company that hires you, rather than the employment agency.

When you are employed directly by a company you will have different employment rights as a permanent or fixed-term member of staff, than you would as an agency worker.

If you have your own company

If you have your own company or work through a limited company and use an agency then you are still protected as an agency worker but you can choose to opt-out of this protection. You must do this before you are introduced to a hiring company by your agency.

The opt-out has to be given by both the limited company contractor and the person actually doing the work (for example, if the limited company contractor engages its own workers).

An agency cannot make their work-finding services or an offer of work conditional on you opting out of your rights.

Where to get help

If you have a problem with an employment agency, you can contact the  Employment Agency Inspectorate (EAI)  or use the online form to make a complaint.

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.

If you are a member of a trade union you can get help, advice and support from them.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.