Agency worker rights

27 February 2018

Can agency workers, entitled after 12 weeks to the same basic working conditions as an end-user's employees, be compensated for less holiday or unpaid breaks by a higher hourly pay?

No, held the EAT in Kocur v Royal Mail, upholding two grounds of the claimant's appeal.

Regulation 5 of the Agency Workers Regulation 2010 entitled the claimant to the same basic working and employment conditions as the hirer's comparable employees. He got higher hourly pay, but 2.5 days less holiday; a 1-hour rest break was only paid for 30 minutes, not the hour. His daily pay was £1.95 higher. The tribunal found that this offset those less favourable terms.

The EAT disagreed; an agency or hirer cannot offset a failure to confer a specific AWR entitlement (e.g. the same annual leave) with a higher rate of pay. The entitlement is to the same basic terms and conditions as comparable employees on a 'term-by-term' basis with equal terms, not by comparing the overall package.

However, parity can be achieved in different ways, e.g. identical holiday pay could be provided by a lump sum at assignment end, or in 'rolled-up' holiday pay. If so, the payment mechanism must be transparent so the agency worker can readily ascertain how remuneration relates to annual leave.

The EAT rejected a contention that the claimant's entitlement to the same 'duration of working time' entitled him to work the precisely the same number of hours as comparable employees (e.g. a 39-hour week); the entitlement would be to the same working time as employees, so not getting an 8-hour shift when the employees' maximum shift is 6 hours.

With thanks to Daniel Barnett’s employment law bulletin for providing this case summary.