When Agencies Don’t Pay

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It’s a fact that there are now literally thousands of Recruitment Agencies across the country all vying to supply staff. As with any saturated market, there are bound to be some companies that are less than honest and professional.

We work tirelessly for the workers that represent us on sites, factories, warehouses and in office locations across the country and do whatever we can to maintain our incredible reputation and improve the image of our industry as a whole.

In this post we hope to shed a little light on your rights and responsibilities and hopefully clear up any misconceptions where it comes to getting paid.

There are many myths and misconceptions about working for agencies and we hope, throughout the content on our site, to be a transparent resource for all workers.

From time to time we come across workers who are reluctant to work via an agency because they have encountered issues themselves or rumours from others about the reliability or accuracy of their pay.

Agency pay is typically paid weekly (though most agencies will allow you to be paid monthly should you so choose) and it often fluctuates due to the casual nature of the contracts. The typical agency contract will not stipulate a standard minimum or maximum number of hours per week. It’s worth remembering:

  1. Your hours are your responsibility. Don’t take it for granted that they will be communicated from the place you are working to the people that need to pay you.
  2. Money might not be in your account straight away. Companies may release funds into your account at any time on pay-day. Don’t assume that if you haven’t woken up to money in your account, they wont be deposited later in the day.
  1. Don’t disappear. If you choose to quit your assignment early or without notice then you mustn’t just assume that your payroll will be accurately handled in your absence. Do it the right way, notify your recruiter and confirm the hours you have worked up to the point of leaving.
  2. Adhere to signing in/reporting rules on your site. Some sites base their hours reporting using  signing in books, clock cards or scanners to verify attendance. Ensure you follow any reporting procedure so that the hours you work can be verified.
  3. Get it in writing. Any recruiter operating properly will not have an issue with communicating with you via email. If unsure of any information or to confirm any key facts surrounding your employment,do so via email. This way you have written evidence of any communication you have with the people you work for.
  4. Don’t take what isn’t yours. You might be trusted with equipment, PPE or other materials to enable you to do your job. Ensure that when your assignment is over, this is returned. Employers are within their rights to withhold any payments if they feel that you have removed something that isn’t your property.
  5. Rectify, remedy and report damage. Accidents happen. If you are responsible for any loss or damage in the workplace, don’t avoid remedying it.

Acas has published a new guide on agency workers after its helpline revealed that many of them were not aware of their legal rights.

At least one in four calls about agency workers to the Acas helpline are from about not being paid properly. The workers raised the issue of delays to their wage payments from agencies, of not being paid at all, or not being paid correctly.

Acas Senior Guidance Adviser, Tom Neil, said:

“It is clear that there are agency workers who are unsure about their rights at work. This can leave them unsure about their entitlements on pay, working hours and time off for holidays and sickness.

“Some agency workers complain about their pay being delayed because the employer has not paid the agency. Agencies should know that workers have a right to receive their wages whether or not the employer has paid the agency.

“Our new advice is an easy to understand guide that’s designed to explain how the law applies to agency workers now. Our unique insight as conciliators in workplace disputes across the UK has informed the guidance on issues such as holiday pay, pensions, parental rights and joining a trade union.”

Acas’ new agency workers guidance aims to help all those involved in this working relationship to understand the rights and responsibilities of agency workers or those using the services of an employment agency.

The new ACAS guidance includes the following tips for agency workers:

  1. Agency workers are entitled to be paid even if the agency has not received a payment from the employer.
  2. Make sure you know your employment status as this is essential to understand your rights. Whether you are a worker, an employee or self-employed, affects your pay, holidays and other entitlements.
  3. Remember that after a 12 week qualifying period, in most situations, an agency worker must receive the same pay as those directly employed.

Acas will update its guide on agency workers if there are any future changes to the law that relates to agency workers following this consultation.

What can you do?

  1. Communicate calmly and politely by telephone (as frustrated as you may be). Ensure that the agency has logged and are resolving your pay query. Ensure you have a contact name for the person dealing with the issue so you can refer back to them if you have to call again. Find out why you haven’t been paid as there may be a simple solution or reason behind the delay.
  2. Lay out your complaint in an email. It doesn’t have to be long winded. Explain that you haven’t yet received your pay, ask why you haven’t been paid and ask for clarification on when you can expect it to reach your account, also ask for acknowledgement of your email so that you know it has been received and is being dealt with. If the worst case scenario plays out, having a paper trail that you can refer to, will help in providing evidence at a later date.
  3. If you don’t receive a reasonable explanation from your agency, it may be necessary to notify the company you are working for. The agency is their supplier and they may not know that pay is being withheld from you. It may also have more of an affect if the agency is contacted by their client.

Taking matters further

Reporting the matter: An agency worker can contact the EAS (Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate) if they:

  • are owed pay and the agency is refusing to make payment
  • have been charged a fee by the agency to find them work
  • have been pressured into paying for additional services and uniforms or charged without their agreement
  • have been charged a fee to become directly employed by a hiring organisation
  • are being paid (and charged fees) by an umbrella company rather than the agency and the agency worker never agreed to this.

The EAS can contact the agency about the matter and in the most serious cases send inspectors in to investigate allegations and pursue prosecutions. For further details, contact the Acas Helpline or complete a complaint form at GOV.UK – Pay and work rights complaints.

Where an agency worker has not received the NMW or NLW (National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage), they can make a tribunal claim (see below) or could contact HMRC who have a NMW enforcement team. For further details, contact the Acas helpline.

An agency and/or an agency worker may also report issues to SAFERjobs if they suspect fraud, malpractice or breach of legislation. SAFERjobs will then pass the information on to the most appropriate organisation to take it further. For further details, go to www.safer-jobs.com.

Taking legal action: If an agency worker believes they have not received or been refused a right they are entitled to, they could raise an employment tribunal claim. This would involve starting a legal process, which could end in attending an employment tribunal or going through the court system.

To begin the employment tribunal process, an agency worker must notify Acas of their intention to lodge an employment tribunal claim. Acas then offers Early Conciliation, which provides those involved the chance to settle the dispute without it going to tribunal.

For most tribunal claims there is a three-month time limit for an agency worker to submit a claim. However this time limit does pause if Early Conciliation is taking place. For more information, go to Employment Tribunals.

Can Staff One help?

There are rare instances where an agency may cease to operate or run out of funds to pay your wage before the day it is due to be paid. This often has nothing to do with the company you are working for and everything to do with the agency. In these instances, we may be able to discuss a transfer with the company and enable you to get paid and also continue to work on the same site without any disruption to your ongoing assignment. If this is the case, we would encourage you to get in touch on 03300 535 600 and ask to speak to one of our Recruitment Consultants.

Notes on ACAS

  1. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Acas provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. They support good relationships between employers and employees which underpin business success. We also provide good value, high quality training and tailored advice to employers. Their expertise is based on millions of contacts with employers and employees each year. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a Council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law.
  2. The Acas helpline received 10,754 calls in 2017 about agency workers and 3,150 were from agency workers complaining about being paid correctly.
  3. You can see the Acas guidance on www.acas.org.uk/agencyworkers.

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