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    5 May 2020

    Agency workers and Coronavirus Q&A

    Employment law has been a hot topic since the Covid-19 crisis, with financial support for those unable to work followed by several updates on the JRS (job retention scheme) which could create confusing guidance for employees and businesses when dealing with HR requests. In fact, until the Covid-19 crisis the use of ‘furlough’ was a relatively uncommon term. 

    As the Government announce more financial support to employees who are unable to work due to the Coronavirus pandemic, employment lawyers and HR managers are being asked by employees about their eligibility for the scheme.  The Government guidance states that if you and your employer both agree, it may be possible to keep them on the payroll even though they are unable to operate or have no work because of Coronavirus, getting 80% of their wages.  But what support can temps / agency workers get from the Government if there is no more work due to the economic impacts of Coronavirus? And what qualifies as an employment contract?

    Employment Law Solicitor recently took part in the Law Society twitter #SolicitorChat session discussing the following Q&A;

    Q1. What kind of contract do temps and agency employees have with their agency?

    Temp and agency staff are almost always casual workers. This means they have no guaranteed hours of work and no obligation to accept offers of work, which is generally known as a ‘zero hour contract’.

    Q2. We have spoken to temps who say their agency says their contract is for provision of services and not an employment contract – what is the difference?

    This could actually be in relation to either the temp worker, or the agency itself. Where it relates to the agency, it is because a temp worker uses an employment agency to find them work, rather than employ them. The difference is that the agency is providing the temp with a service, that being to find them casual work, not offering them permanent employment under a contract of employment. If the agency employed the temp, they would no longer be a casual worker because there would be an obligation on the temp to accept the jobs that were given to them.

    If it relates to the temp, it means that the work the temp is doing is considered a ‘service’ and every job the agency is offering them is another ‘service’ the temp has to provide. It prevents the agency and the client from becoming the employer of the casual worker.

    Q3. If a temp has worked for the same agency, and the same client for over 12 months and has been paid via PAYE, received holiday pay and had pension deductions, does this mean they have had a contract of employment?

    No, not automatically. In this case, the temp would likely be considered a worker working under a zero hour contract. However, in certain circumstances it is possible for a casual worker to be classed as an employee where the zero hour contract is considered unreflective of the real working relationship. This is difficult to prove though, and relatively rare.

    Q4. What support can temps/agency employees get from the Government if there is no more work due to the economic impacts of Coronavirus?

    The Governments Covid-19 Job Retention Scheme includes zero hour workers. So they could, if the employer chooses, be furloughed like any other member of staff. Where they are simply not offered any work due to a lack of opportunities they would need seek the usual unemployment benefit in the normal way.

    Q5. What documents/information should a temp worker take to a solicitor if they are asking for advice?

    Generally, a solicitor will want to see all paperwork and correspondence you have with the agency and the client you work for. Your Solicitor will be able to give you advice on specific documents they need to see.

    For more information on employment law through this Covid-19 period, please read our articles on:

    The employment lawyers at Steeles Law are very experienced in business re-organisation and the difficulties associated with the short-term challenges to business.  If we can assist in any way with the challenges that your business is facing or you have other Employment Law Q&A you would like advice with, please do not hesitate to contact the team via on employment@steeleslaw.co.uk or by calling 01603 598000.

    *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.



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