Agency workers: pay between assignments

As an agency worker you are entitled to certain additional employment rights. Your agency may offer you a permanent contract and pay you between assignments, but this will mean you will not be entitled to equal treatment on pay.

Being paid between assignments

Your temporary work agency may offer you a permanent contract of employment before the first assignment under the contract  and pay you between assignments when there is no work (pay must be at least 50 per cent of the pay you receive while on assignment and at least the National Minimum Wage). This provision is sometimes called Swedish derogation.

This will mean, however, that you will not be entitled to equal treatment on pay (including holiday pay) after 12 weeks in the same job. All other entitlements will apply in the same way as for other agency workers.

You cannot be forced to sign this type of contract and it may not suit everyone.

If your agency offers you a permanent contract it must set out in writing:

  • minimum pay rates and how they are calculated
  • the location of work reflecting where you are willing to travel
  • minimum and maximum expected hours of work, which must be at least one hour a week
  • the nature of the work
  • a statement that makes it clear that you are giving up the right to equal treatment with regard to pay

When you're not working you must receive pay between assignments.This must be:

  • at least 50 per cent of the rate of pay from your previous assignment calculated at the highest rate of pay received during any one week
  • at least the National Minimum Wage

You need to check that the terms of the contract meet your needs before signing it.

The agency can't ask you to come into the agency for an hour to avoid paying you between assignments. You'll need to be on a genuine assignment with a hirer on the basis of the terms in your contract.

While the contract is in place you will be entitled to pay between assignments until the agency finds you another job.

The pay between assignments doesn't apply to periods between two short assignments which fall in the same week, for example, if you work on Monday and do not work again until Friday. You will only be paid during the weeks where you have no work at all but are available to work.

If you're not on an assignment and the agency refuses to pay you, you could make a claim to an Industrial Tribunal.

Ending a pay between assignments contract

If the agency wants to end the contract it must first give you four weeks' pay between assignments. The four weeks' pay (which is the minimum) could either be at the end of a single assignment or between a series of assignments.

At the end of the contract, if you have already received the four weeks' pay, you will not get the payment again. The contract can end earlier for other reasons if, for example, you resign.

If the agency terminates your contract, you might be entitled to certain rights as you have a contract of employment. These may depend on the length of your service but could include:

Getting equal treatment

Agencies and hirers shouldn't structure arrangements in a way that stops you getting the protection provided by pay between assignments contracts. If they do, they could be legally challenged.

If  the agency offers you different hours from the expected hours of work included in your contract you can challenge this.

Where to get help

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.

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