How to complain about a recruitment agency?

So you have been struggling to find a job, perhaps you want to become an agency worker? What does this entail?

Agency workers do not necessarily have the same right as usual employees in an organisation. For example, recruitment agencies are in charge of timesheets and your pay usually. If you feel a recruitment agency is mistreating you, I will explain how to make a complaint about your recruitment agency and also.

How to complain about a recruitment agency?

When you are working through a recruitment agency, it is essential to know if you are classed as an ’employee’ or a ‘worker’ under the employment status law. Your employment status affects what you are entitled to and what your obligations as an employee or worker are.

If you are registered as self-employed and work an assignment through a recruitment agency, this could mean that you are classed as an employee or worker.

What are your rights as an agency worker?

As an employee or a worker, you have rights from the moment you sign your contract, such as:

  • You must be protected against discrimination.
  • You must have National Minimum Wage entitlement.
  • You must receive 5.6 weeks’ holiday entitlement as a minimum.
  • From the first day of the assignment, you have the same rights as direct employees of the organisation to use any shared facilities with other employees and services, including:
  •  The organisation’s canteen and food and drinks machines.
  • Childcare services, for example, a creche or on-site nursery.
  • Car parking and transport services.

What are your rights after 12 weeks?

Once you have been working as an agency worker for longer than 12 weeks, you receive more rights once you have worked on the same assignment at the hiring organisation for 12 weeks. This is referred to as the ’12-week minimum qualifying period’ in employment law. 

These rights cover:

  • Your rights to be paid.
  • Your right to the minimum amount of holiday.
  •  Your right to sick leave.
  • Your right to a pension.
  • Your right to minimum working hours and rest breaks.
  • Your right to access permanent job vacancies at the organisation you are working.
  • Your right to parental time off.
  • Your right to ending your employment.

Example

You are working on a year-long assignment, and you are pregnant. You have been working for the organisation for eight weeks, you then call in sick with a pregnancy-related illness. Any weeks that you are off sick with that illness will count towards your 12-week qualifying period.

A week does not count towards the 12-week qualifying period if:

  • The total length of the break you have between 2 periods of work is no longer than six weeks.
  • You are absent because of sickness or jury service for less than 28 weeks.
  • You decide to take your holiday entitlement.
  • The workplace has to shut down, for example for Christmas or a strike.
  • Your 12-week qualifying period will begin again if you
  • Are returning to the same assignment after a break of more than six weeks, for reasons not listed above.
  • Return to the same role after 28 weeks’ of absence due to sickness or jury service.
  • Begin a new assignment with a new organisation.

Under the Agency Workers Regulations, recruitment agencies are not allowed to create assignment patterns that stop you from reaching the 12-week qualifying period. If you believe an agency is doing this to you or another agency worker, you can report them to the EAS (Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate).

Pay rights

  • As an agency worker, you also have the same rights as other employees and workers:
  • You must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage.
  • You must not have any deductions from your pay that are not legal.
  • You must be paid on time and by the agreed method with your agency.
  • You must receive payslips from your agency.
  • Your pay could vary from assignment to assignment, so it is a good idea to ensure:
  • You agree to your pay rate with the agency before an assignment begins.

• You are not going to receive less than the rate that is agreed in your terms and conditions or contract.

Delays in pay

An agency is only able to delay a payment for a reasonable amount of time when they have to confirm the hours that you worked.

If the agency has problems getting payment from the hiring organisation, the agency must still pay you on time regardless.

If you have a problem with your agency

If you have a problem with a recruitment agency, it is a good idea to try and resolve it informally to start. If you have attempted to try this or it is not possible, you can make a formal complaint to the agency. By law, they only have to consider claims made by employees. However, it is good practice for them to consider claims from workers too. Make your complaint in writing to the employment agency.

The agency will have a complaints procedure that should include

  • Arranging a meeting to hear the complaint.
  • Letting you bring someone that you work with or a trade union rep to the meeting.
  • Attempt to find an answer to the issue.

Claiming to an employment tribunal

If the agency or organisation have refused you your rights under the Agency Workers Regulations or you believe they have mistreated you concerning something you have a right to, you should claim to a tribunal. 

If you are classed as an employee at the organisation and are dismissed for asserting your right, this will automatically class as unfair dismissal. If you are not receiving at least the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage, you can report it to HMRC, or you can claim to an employment tribunal.

Reporting the agency

The Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS) enforces specific regulations, and they can investigate it if the agency:

  • Has refused to pay what you are owed.
  • Charges a fee to find you employment.
  • Do not tell you they are going to charge you for extra things or uniforms.
  • Charges you a fee to become directly employed by an organisation.
  • Is having an umbrella company pay you and are charging you fees for it, and you did not agree to this.

Key Takeaway

Do you need to make a complaint about an employment agency and do not know where to start? When dealing with employment issues, it is best to seek expert legal advice first. Contact one of our employment lawyers to discuss your situation and start your journey to finding a solution.

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