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Limits placed on the rights of agency workers

August 1, 2019
Employment Law

As you will probably be aware, the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (AWR) requires employers to ensure that they treat agency workers in a manner consistent with their directly employed staff. However, the recent case of Kocur v Angard Staffing Solutions Limited considered quite how far this obligation stretches.

The Court of Appeal’s decision

In the Kocur case, an agency worker argued that, amongst other things, he was entitled to the same hours of work as directly employed staff. Mr K tended to work only 20 hours per week and wanted a more generous guarantee.

The Court of Appeal dismissed Mr K’s claim. When considering the purpose of the AWR, the court acknowledged the objective of ensuring consistency of treatment between agency workers and permanent members of staff while they are at work. However, the court did not believe this gave agency workers an entitlement to receive the same amount of work as directly employed people.

Common sense breaks out

In the circumstances, this must be the right decision. Businesses often use agency staff arrangements precisely because of the flexibility it provides and the extent to which it can assist in dealing with peaks and troughs in work. If those businesses were obliged to provide agency workers with the same amount of work as permanent members of staff, this could undermine the very purpose of the agency worker model.  

Of course, trades unions are often critical of the use of agency worker arrangements, pointing to the insecure and sometimes poorly paid nature of the work. By the same token, some businesses and individuals genuinely value the flexibility they provide and the Court of Appeal seems content that the AWR did not intend to destroy this flexibility entirely!

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