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Agency worker receives £5,900 for breach of equal pay rights

"I hope that my story will give others the confidence to ask for what they are entitled to."

Law Centre (NI) client Andrea Richardson has received over £5,900 in compensation in a settlement for breach of the law which protects agency workers’ rights. 

In her application to the Industrial Tribunal, Ms Richardson claimed that she was entitled to equal pay with direct employees of the organisation she was working for.

In a settlement reached on the morning of the hearing, Kennedy Recruitment Limited and an umbrella company, called Zeva, admitted being in breach of the Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.

Welcoming the result, Ms Richardson said:

“I hope that my story will give others the confidence to ask for what they are entitled to. While agency work can suit some people, I am not an agency worker by choice – the lack of permanent, direct employment has made it my only option.  The job insecurity that comes with agency work can be stressful and it is important that our rights are protected.”

The regulations were introduced to protect the rights of agency workers.  Law Centre’s director Glenn Jordan is concerned that the Regulations are not benefiting agency workers to the extent that was envisaged at the time they were introduced. He added:

“We will continue to highlight cases where we believe that agency workers’ rights have been breached so that the Agency Workers Regulations truly work as they were intended, to protect agency workers.”

Andrea’s story

Andrea Richardson had been recruited by Kennedy Recruitment Limited to work with Land and Property Services (a division of the Department of Finance and Personnel) for ten months as a mapping and charting officer. She was paid less than mapping and charting officers employed directly by Land and Property Services.

Near the end of her time with the Land and Property Services, Andrea discovered that she might be on a type of contract - known as a Swedish Derogation contract - that allows a worker on an employment contract with an agency to be paid less than a direct employee in certain circumstances.  Andrea contacted Kennedy Recruitment Ltd. to ask about her rights under her contract.  She was told that her employer was in fact the umbrella company Zeva.

At this stage, Andrea contacted Law Centre (NI) for help.

Caroline Maguire, employment legal adviser at the Law Centre, assisted Andrea to lodge an employment tribunal case to claim that she was entitled to the same rate of pay as direct employees of Land and Property Services. 

Kennedy Recruitment Ltd. and Zeva settled the case on the basis that, since there was no employment contract with Andrea before she started her work at Land and Property Services, she was not on a valid Swedish Derogation contract and should not therefore have received less pay than colleagues employed directly by the Land and Property Service. 

Andrea received the full value of her back pay.

Protecting agency workers’ rights

Caroline Maguire said:

“This case is a reminder to other agency workers that they may need to check whether they are entitled to the same rate of pay as colleagues who are direct employees.   

We don’t know the extent to which agency workers in Northern Ireland are losing out on their employment rights but it’s not the first time the Law Centre has advised agency workers who have been affected by Swedish Derogation type contracts. 

It’s important for all agency workers to check the status of their contract with their agency and seek advice if they have concerns.” 

The Swedish Derogation

Under the Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011, after 12 weeks in the same post, agency workers should normally be paid the same amount as direct employees doing similar work in their workplace (in Andrea’s case, employees of Land and Property Services).

A clause in the regulations, called a ‘Swedish Derogation’ or ‘Regulation 10’ contract, entitles agencies to continue to pay them less if, in exchange, the agency has entered into a contract with the worker which:

  • gives the worker a permanent contract as an employee of the agency (in Andrea’s case, either Kennedy Recruitment or Zeva),
  • provides for a minimum amount of pay for the first four weeks after an assignment ends, and
  • requires the agency to actively look for suitable alternative work for the worker. 

The employment contract agreeing these arrangements must be signed before the worker’s assignment starts.

Law Centre (NI)'s employment legal advice line is open from 9.30am to 1pm Monday to Friday: 028 9024 4401

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