Negative publicity over AWR ‘breach’

Agencies that do not fully meet their obligations under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (‘AWR’) risk immeasurable damage to their reputations.

However, as public awareness of the legislation increases, employers may face negative media attention, even when compliant. The danger was highlighted in the recent Guardian article on the practices of the internet retailer ASOS.

Until recently, it was ASOS’ policy that all new employees should be paid at a lower, ‘starter’ rate for the first six months, after which the rate increased. Agency workers’ comparator pay was based on the starter rate and agency workers did not receive the increased pay rate until they had worked there for six months.

Using starter rates is an option under the AWR, and therefore neither ASOS nor its recruiters were necessarily in breach of the AWR. However, ASOS has still faced a barrage of criticism for undermining the intent of the legislation. The arrangement was seen as being skewed in favour of permanent employees, since agency workers were typically hired on short term assignments and so were unlikely ever to receive the higher pay rate.

Theresa Mimnagh, Associate Director of Lawspeed, commented “With media attention increasingly focussed on agency workers, employment status and the gig economy, it is possible that recruiters, and/or hirers could find themselves coming under fire for arrangements that are entirely legal as well as those that may be unlawful.

“It is open to agency workers who wish to challenge their pay, conditions or employment status to do so via the employment tribunal system, where the full facts can be considered. It is unfortunate that these matters are instead being played out in the media, where reputational damage can be significant. However, this appears to be a sign of the times”.

The vast majority of recruitment agencies take their responsibilities towards agency workers very seriously, but even the most well intentioned agency can be at risk without the right contracts and procedures in place. Could your business withstand the fallout from failing to protect worker rights? 

Lawspeed can help with all aspects of the AWR – call us on 01273 236 236 for advice.

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