Temp agency offering pay-between-assignments contract

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  • #621

    Snow leopard

    My agency is offering me a pay-between assignments contract. Should I take it?

  • #674

    Adrian Gregory

    I run a temp agency in London called Extraman. I wouldn’t recommend to any temp that they take a pay-between assignments contract; in reality they’re a bit of a scam.


Here’s how it works.

    If you’re on a normal temp agency contract, not a pay-between-assignments contract, then after twelve weeks in the job, you’re entitled to the same pay as someone doing the same job who’s a regular employee of the company.

    A lot of people don’t know about those entitlements but they’re all there in the Agency Workers Regulations 2011.

    But when they drafted the laws they included a get-out-clause. 

    Agencies were allowed to not give you those rights if they gave you a special contract called a pay-between-assignments contract. That’s sometimes called the ‘Swedish derogation’. That means that you don’t get the right to the same pay as an employee doing the same job after 12 weeks. 

    But instead, the agency is obliged to pay you between each assignment. So in theory, even when there’s no temp work for you, you should still get paid.

    That sounds fair enough, but there’s a catch.

    They only have to pay you if you’re available to work.

    So some agencies try to get round it by proving you’re not available to work, so that you lose your entitlement to be paid between assignments. The ways of doing that are where the scandal lies.

    For example, I’ve heard of agencies contacting people three times a day, saying ‘there’s work for you’, when there isn’t. 

    Or they might say ‘we’ve got work as a cleaner fifty miles away for six hours. Oh, you don’t want it? Well then, you’re not available for work. So you lose your right to be paid between assignments. 

    They might text you saying there’s work, but when you ring, they don’t respond, and when you call to say ‘I’m available,’ they say ‘sorry, someone else has taken it.’ 

    Or they might text you at a silly time like 2am in the morning, then when you don’t reply straight away they’ll say ‘haha, you weren’t available for work’. 

    And if you argue they’ll say ‘at 2am you didn’t answer.’ And if you say ‘but I was asleep’ they’ll say ‘I’m sorry, look at your contract.’ 

    And of course, most temps think, ‘oh, they’ve got me here.’

That way the agency argues that you weren’t available.

    The temp loses the pay between assignments and their rights to equal pay with an equivalent permanent employee after twelve weeks.

    That’s how they do it. It should be badly exposed.

    I’m sure if a court case ever did happen, this wouldn’t stand up.

    But for now that’s how it often works. So my strong advice is that you avoid pay-between-assignment contracts if you possibly can.

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