Agency workers, also known as temporary agency workers have an agreement with an agency to work for someone else.
For example, a secretary might work for an employment agency and temporarily do work for an office while one of their employees is on leave.
While agency workers do not have all the same employment rights as permanent workers they do have the right to equal treatment in basic working and employment conditions.
Who is an agency worker?
You are an agency worker if you are employed by an employment agency and temporarily assigned to work for another organisation (the hirer).
Who is not an agency worker?
The following workers are not considered agency workers:
- Independent contractors or business owners placed by an employment agency. In this case, the contractor is a client of the hirer.
- Some workers under a managed service contract (for example, cleaning contracts), where the contractor manages and delivers the service.
- Workers on the Work Placement Experience Programme, Community Employment, TÚS or any Department of Social Protection vocational training or re-training scheme.
You can get more information about understanding your employment status.
Who is considered my employer?
Your employer depends on the specific employment rights you want to enforce.
In most cases (exceptions mentioned below), the party who pays your wages is typically considered your employer. This can be either the employment agency or the client company.
The Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2003 clarifies that agency workers are insurably employed and the person who pays the wages is the employer for PRSI (pay-related social insurance) purposes.
Entitlement to equal treatment
Agency workers must have equal treatment with regular workers from their first day at work.
As an agency worker, you are entitled to the same basic employment conditions as if you were directly recruited by the hirer.
These basic employment and working conditions are:
Covers working time, rest periods, breaks, night work, annual leave, and public holidays.
Includes: Basic pay, shift premium, piece work, overtime, unsocial hours worked, and Sunday work.
Excludes: Occupational pension schemes, bonuses, maternity pay or benefit in kind.
Access to Facilities and Information
Covers childcare, canteen and parking facilities and information about permanent job opportunities.
Legislation covering equal treatment
The rules on equal treatment are set out in the Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012.
The Workplace Relations Commission has guidance on the Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012 (pdf).
Part-time agency workers
If you are a part-time agency worker, you can only compare yourself to a comparable full-time agency worker. These rules are set out in the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001.
Additional legal protections for agency workers
As an agency worker, you also have certain rights under the following employment legislation:
It is important to know who is responsible for ensuring compliance with employment protection legislation - the agency or the hirer. See ‘Who is considered my employer?’ above.
Legislation that does not apply to agency workers
The Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 applies to most employees on fixed-term contracts.
It does not apply to agency workers placed by a temporary work agency in another organisation. However, the Act does apply to agency workers directly employed by an employment agency.
Protection against victimisation
You are protected against being victimised as an agency worker for reporting breaches of the Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012.
This means the hirer or agency cannot penalise you through dismissal, unfair treatment or unfavourable changes in your employment conditions.
Making a complaint
You can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission about a breach of your rights as an agency worker, using the online complaint form.
You must make the complaint within 6 months of the dispute. The time limit can be extended for a further 6 months, if there is a reasonable cause which prevented you from bringing the complaint within the normal time limit.
You can find out more about the rights of agency workers from Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service - see address below.
Regulation of employment agencies
Employment agencies in Ireland are regulated by the Employment Agency Act 1971. Under the Act, an employment agency must have a licence to operate its business. Details of the application procedure and a list of licensed employment agencies (pdf) are available on the Workplace Relations Commission’s website.