Temping? Avoid this scam if you can 😠

Most temps are on an agency workers contract. That’s a contract designed for temporary workers.

But some agencies ask their workers to go on a different contract called a ‘pay-between-assignments contract.’ It’s sometimes also called a ‘Swedish derogation’ contract. They’re two terms for the same thing.

It’s perfectly legal.

But it shouldn’t be: it’s often used as a scam.

This article explains:

  • How pay-between-assignments contracts are supposed to work
  • How they can be used to scam temps
  • If you’re on a pay-between-assignments contract, what to do to make sure you’re not being scammed
  • If you are, how to make a complaint to the authorities…
  • …or launch a tribunal claim against your agency.


1) How pay-between-assignments contracts are supposed to work

A pay-between-assignments contract means you’re supposed to be paid between each assignment you do.

The way it’s supposed to work is that the temp agency takes you on as an employee rather than an agency worker. Then, when it has temp work for you, you do the work as normal. And when it doesn’t, they pay you anyway.

In other words, they pay you between assignments.

2) The catch

But agencies get often get round it, because there’s a catch: they only have to pay you between assignments when you’re ‘available to work.’

So lots of agencies go out of their way to prove you’re not available to work. That way, they can avoid paying you.

Adrian Gregory, director of temp agency Extraman in London, has written on our ‘Ask’ forum about how some agencies scam temps out of the pay they’re supposed to get between assignments:

“Some agencies try to get round [the law] 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.”

Once you’ve signed a pay-between-assignments contract, you’re stuck. You can’t stop the agency from trying to make it seem like you’re not available to work.

The best thing to do is to avoid signing one of these contracts in the first place.

3) What to do if you’re on a pay-between-assignment contract

If you’re on a pay-between assignments contract, the first thing to do is to make sure you’re getting paid the right amount of money.

Adrian Gregory has written an answer about how to work out how much you should be paid between assignments here

If your agency is paying you wrongly or ripping you off by claiming you’re not available to work, sections 5 and 6 below explain what you can do.

4) Talk to your agency and ask to go on a regular agency contract

If you’re on a pay-between-assignments contract, it doesn’t mean you’re getting scammed.

But it does mean you’re vulnerable because the agency has the power to determine whether you’re ‘available for work.’ That affects whether you get paid.

The best thing to do is to ask your agency if you can go on a regular agency contract.

Or better still, if you can: sign up with another agency which gives you a regular contract.

5) If you’re missing out on pay, option #1: report your agency to the authorities

If you’re missing out on pay, report your agency to the Employment Agencies Inspectorate. That’s the government agency which enforces the law on agencies.

If your agency is scamming you, they could be prosecuted.

To do that, contact ACAS on 0300 123 1100, explain the situation, and ask to be put through to the Employment Agencies Inspectorate. Lines are open 8-6pm, Mon –Fri.


6) If you’re being ripped off, option #2: launch an employment tribunal – but there’s a time limit

Another option is to take advice to see whether you can take your agency to an Employment Tribunal. That’s called ‘presenting a claim to the Tribunal.’

To do that, start by calling ACAS on the number above. Explain the situation and get their opinion on whether this is the best option for your situation.

You can do this while you’re working for the agency or after you’ve finished. But there is a time limit. You can only do it within three months minus one day from the day after the problem.

So if they’ve not paid you correctly, that means you can only do it three months minus one day after the day they should have. That’s the last time you were paid.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not still working for that agency then, you can still make the claim. 

There’s more information about this in our article on holiday pay here.

If you do any of this, let us know how you get on in our thread on this article in Howbox ‘Ask.’



Has this information helped you? Is there anything wrong with this? Tell us about it!

Are you on a pay-between-assignments contract? Do you get paid between assignments? Do you recognise this scam? If you’ve challenged your agency about it, what happened? Join the discussion on the ‘Ask‘ forum, here

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