Equal rights for agency workers from Monday 5th December 2011

Agency workers will benefit from the same pay and conditions of employment as their permanent full time colleagues from Monday (5th December) following discussions between trade unions, employers groups and the Government. The new equal status for agency workers results from the implementation of the EU Temporary Agency Workers Directive and is likely to affect up to 40,000 workers across the public and private sectors. The directive provides that workers supplied by agencies have the same pay and conditions as regular staff from their first day on the job.

A major dispute at Irish Ferries in 2005 centred on the company’s recruitment and exploitation of low paid, non-national, agency workers. The dispute was triggered after the Irish Ferries management threatened to replace directly employed seafarers with predominantly Eastern European agency crew who were paid less than the Irish minimum wage.  In December 2005, up to 100,000 people marched in Dublin against the gross exploitation of the workers involved in the Irish Ferries dispute which led to the ultimately successful campaign for an EU Directive granting equality for agency workers.

The Government’s Bill, when published later in the month, will confirm this and will define pay for the purposes of the legislation as follows:  

  • Basic pay
  • Shift premium
  • Piece rates
  • Overtime premium
  • Unsocial hours premium
  • Sunday premium where a Sunday is worked and a premium is normally paid to a directly recruited employee.  

This is an exhaustive list in the Bill to be published. Other possible component elements of remuneration will not be included in the definition of pay for the purpose of equal treatment in the Bill, including for example:  

  • Occupational Pension schemes
  • Financial participation schemes
  • Sick pay schemes
  • Benefit in kind
  • Bonus payments  

The Bill will also provide for equal treatment of Temporary Agency Workers who fall within scope of the Directive in respect of the following:  

  • Working time
  • Rest periods
  • Rest breaks
  • Night work
  • Annual leave
  • Public holidays
  • The Bill will also transpose the Directive’s provisions that temporary agency workers will also be given rights in relation to access to the collective facilities and amenities of a hirer (e.g. canteen or other similar facilities, childcare facilities and transport services) under the same terms as directly recruited employees and are to be informed about vacant posts.  

Hirers and Agencies should make the appropriate arrangements to ensure that the principles of equal treatment as indicated above are put in place from 5thDecember 2011 for all temporary agency workers, including those who are assigned on or after 5thDecember 2011.

We would strongly recommend that if you currently hire temporary agency workers that you contact the Agency to establish the terms and conditions that apply to ensure that you are complying with the new regulations.