The number of temporary agency workers in England and Wales has soared by a staggering 29% in the last decade, research by Citizens Advice reveals today.
There are currently around 800,000 agency workers in England and Wales, many of whom are self-employed and on temporary contracts.
A new report from Citizens Advice found the number of temporary agency workers has skyrocketed from 230,000 to 297,000 since 2006, highlighting the changing face of the Labour market.
While agency work can offer flexible employment opportunities to some people looking for work, others can find themselves being exploited in low-paid and insecure jobs and struggling to make ends-meet.
Most agency workers are entitled to an equal level of pay after 12 weeks in the job, as well as other employment rights including paid holidays and rest breaks, but Citizens Advice claims to have seen cases where many of these rights have been ignored.
An analysis of 1,500 agency workers helped by the charity in the last year, found cases where agency workers were paid less than their full-time counterparts, while others had been wrongly denied paid holidays and rest breaks.
Other examples include:
- A worker who was docked £500 insurance costs for an accident that was not their fault
- £320 was taken from a worker for property damage that was not explained
- An agency deducted 12% of a worker’s salary without written consent
- One agency worker had £900 withheld for absences despite the fact they had been at work
- One person the charity helped was docked £35 of their wage for not attending a Christmas party
Citizens Advice is calling on the government to improve the enforcement of workers rights and encourage larger employers to publish data on the number of employees under different contract types, particularly those on zero hours contracts.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Making work pay is the bedrock of a functioning economy.
“The government has made major improvements around work in the UK. More people have jobs than ever before and the National Living Wage is a true social justice reform. But the next step on the journey must be to look at the problems around insecure jobs including agency work because some people are being treated unfairly.
“Making larger employers publish the types of contracts their staff are on would ensure transparency and put pressure on bosses to make sure flexibility is only used where it is truly required.
“Not only will it help employees get the rights they’re entitled to it would also level the playing field for those employers who are upholding people’s rights.”
The charity also recommends the creation of a single, well-resourced ‘Fair Work Authority’, who would serve to enforce employment rights and provide a place for workers to report problems.
Responsibility for enforcing employment rights is currently spread among a number of government agencies and public bodies (HMRC, Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, Health and Safety Executive, The Pensions Regulator, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the National Crime Agency), who Citizens Advice say are underfunded. For example, the HMRC has 269 staff and a budget of only £13.2 million to enforce the ‘National Living Wage’.