United Kingdom agency worker law refers to the law which regulates people's work through employment agencies in the United Kingdom. Though statistics are disputed, there are currently between half a million and one and a half million agency workers in the UK, and probably over 17,000 agencies. As a result of judge made law and absence of statutory protection, agency workers have more flexible pay and working conditions than permanent staff covered under the Employment Rights Act 1996.
For most of the 20th century, employment agencies were quasi-legal entities in international law. The International Labour Organisation in many Conventions called on member states to abolish them. However, the UK never signed up. The major piece of legislation which regulates agency practices is the Employment Agencies Act 1973, though it was slimmed considerably by the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. This abolished licences, so agencies operate without governmental oversight, except for a small inspectorate and occasional court cases. After the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster, Parliament enacted the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004, requiring agencies (gangmasters) in the agricultural, shellfish and food packing sectors to be licensed.
In January 2010, the Government passed The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/93) which require, at least, equal pay and working time rights when compared with what a direct worker would be paid. This is designed to implement the EU Agency Workers Directive, which is the first transnational legal measure to ensure agency workers are treated equally. The Directive was the culmination of initial resistance by the Government under Tony Blair, and a final surge of Parliamentary support for a Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill. The Regulations and the Directive are the third pillar of law, along with the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 and Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 to regulate atypical workers.
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