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Agency Workers: A Staple of the UK Economy?

The number of agency workers in the UK has grown by 30 percent since 2011. As reported by the BBC, the current count within the workforce has reached 865,000. And it is anticipated to cross one million by 2020.

But is having a large number of agency workers a good or bad sign? That depends on where you’re standing. Resolution Foundation, a think-tank, estimates agency workers with full-time hours earn approximately £430 less per month than a company employee performing the same duties.

The Face of Agency Workers

When most people think of agency workers, they see a young adult fresh out of school. Or someone who needs a temporary position based on other requirements. Working for an agency gives you the chance to try out different professions. You can also experience various work environments for job experience. It also offers a lot of flexibility to those not looking for long-term, full-time employment.

But the surprise is that about half of all agency employees work on a permanent basis. Additionally, 75 percent of agency workers end up with full-time schedules. That means numerous people in these positions are not looking for temporary opportunities.

Of those working through agencies, approximately 85 percent are female. Additionally, ethnic minorities outnumber whites, and only six in 10 are UK nationals.

Disadvantages of Working with an Agency

Aside from the lower pay , agency workers suffer from numerous other disadvantages when compared to the regular hire counterparts. First, they rarely have access to benefits such as sick or parental leave. They can also be dismissed easily regardless of performance, whether work is available, or if the original contract was designed for a longer period.

Agency Worker Rights

As an agency worker, you are entitled to certain rights and protections under the law. If you maintain an assignment in the same business for 12 weeks (as calculated here) you qualify for the same rights as any other employee of the company. However, if your contract ends before the 12 weeks are complete and your substantively change roles, the clock rolls back to zero.

Agency workers are also entitled to the National Minimum Wage when employed through an agency. Protections against discrimination are also in place as well as the availability of holiday pay.

Taking Advantage of Agency Workers

While agencies provide a valuable service in numerous cases, there are opportunities for client companies to take advantage of the system to lower their costs. Hiring an agency worker for 11 weeks instead of hiring a new employee means that the business can pay minimum wage for work that often demands more. Additionally, once the 11 weeks are up, they can bring in a new agency worker to avoid the rights that would be provided to the first agency worker after the 12th week.

As the number of agency workers expands, current protections may be examined to determine fairness. However, it takes a significant amount of time for new rules and regulations to be put in place.

In the meantime, agencies provide opportunities to those in need of employment. If you are considering becoming an agency worker, make sure you understand the idiosyncrasies of the work as well as the rights in place to protect you.

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