UK Agency Workers - understanding the new regulations

This post was written by Thomas Ince and Carl de Cicco.

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (“AWR”) are due to come into force on 1 October 2011. The AWR put in place the requirements of the controversial EU Temporary Agency Workers’ Directive, which has to be implemented by 5th December this year. Last week, rumours circulated in the media that there may be a last minute “watering down” of the AWR by the present government. This seems unlikely, particularly because the AWR has already been scrutinised carefully by the new coalition government after they came into power. The Conservatives were unhappy about the proposed 12 week qualifying period which was not set out in the EU Directive. However, having conducted a review, nothing was changed because the AWR was based on an agreement between the CBI and the TUC made prior to the election and could not be changed. We will, of course, update you on any last minute changes to the AWR, but in the meantime we have prepared below a short summary of the basic elements of the AWR.

The AWR will apply to the relationships between agency workers, agencies and hirers. They offer protection to agency workers, providing them with equal access to facilities and amenities at work, the right to receive information about new positions within the hirer. After working for a qualifying period of twelve weeks, agency workers would also have the right to basic working and employment conditions that are equal to those enjoyed by workers recruited directly by the hirer. In May 2011 the government published guidance (the “Guidance”) to help hirers and agencies understand the implications of the AWR and their responsibilities under them.

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Liability for equal pay claims on TUPE transfer

 

The case of Sodexo Ltd v (1) Gutridge and others (2) North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust considers a transferee’s liability for equal pay claims made by transferred employees following a TUPE transfer. In this case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) holds that following a TUPE transfer, claims for equal pay relating to discrimination in pay by the transferor must be made (against the transferee) within 6 months of the transfer. Claims for equal pay arising as a result of discrimination in pay by the transferee can, however, be brought within 6 months from the end of employment with the transferee. Significantly for transferees, where the transferring employees are in receipt of unequal pay at the time of the transfer, as compared to chosen pre-transfer comparators, they will remain entitled to the same pay as the comparator, even if the comparator is not transferred to the transferee.

In practice this means that after a TUPE transfer, transferees are at a continuing risk of significant claims of up to 6 years arrears of pay, even though they are ignorant of the fact that they are paying their employees less than they should because the persons with whom the employees are comparing their pay (the comparators) are not employed by the transferee. 

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Government publishes White Paper on Equality Bill

The Government has published its White Paper, Framework for a Fairer Future – The Equality Bill, setting out its proposals for a Bill to be published in the next Parliamentary session.

Many of the White Paper’s proposals fall outside the employment law field. The main issues which will affect employment law are set out below.

Click to view the White Paper

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Equal Pay - the relationship between grievances and Employment Tribunal claims

The Scottish Court of Session in the case of Cannop & Others –v- The Highland Council has confirmed that where the employee’s Employment Tribunal claim follows on from a grievance previously communicated, there does need to be a necessary relationship between the grievance and the complaint pleaded in the ET1 Tribunal claim form, so that the grievance underlying the ET1 is essentially the same as the grievance earlier communicated. In respect equal pay claims, the Court declined to comment on the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s decision that the relevant grievance must refer to the comparators which are subsequently cited in the ET1.

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