Agency Workers – Discrimination is still unlawful

Last month we focused on discrimination at work, what it means in the workplace, and whether a settlement agreement can help an employee struggling with it. This month, we’d like to shift the focus to a more specific area; discrimination for agency workers.

Fear not, discrimination can still be unlawful for agency workers.

What is an agency worker?

Agency workers are those who have a contract with an employment agency such that the agency then finds work for an individual with another employer. There HAS to be an employment contract between you and the agency. It is not another way of describing self-employed.

Where does responsibility lie if discrimination occurs?

If the treatment received is unlawful, agency workers can claim discrimination against either the agency or the employer, or both, depending on where the discrimination took place.

On what grounds may discrimination occur for agency workers?

An agency worker can make a claim for discrimination if it occurs as a result of a protected characteristic. These include:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sex and gender reassignment
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or beliefs

Examples of discrimination for agency workers

To help illustrate what we mean, here are some examples:

  • When an employer discriminates against you via the terms on which you work for them
  • When an employer refuses you work
  • In the way an employer offers you access to certain benefits, facilities or services
  • If an employer puts you at a disadvantage

Duty to make reasonable adjustments

Both your agency and your employer have a duty to do what they can to remove any barriers you face as a result of your disability if it prevents you from doing the work a non-disabled person could do. For example, enabling you to sit at a production line. The responsibility may lie with the agency, your employer, or both… each case has its nuances.

Discrimination, agency workers, and pregnancy

If your hours are cut as an agency worker because you are pregnant, or if an agency refuses to place you because you’re pregnant, these are both examples of discrimination. But don’t think that’s as far as it goes. Agency workers are also protected against discrimination with respect to having the right to paid time off for maternity leave. And your employer has to carry out a health and safety assessment when you inform them that you’re pregnant.

If you believe you are experiencing discrimination in the work place, and you are an agency worker, please do call us. We will be able to help you understand your situation and how best to move things forward.


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