The EAT has recently ruled that the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) only apply to workers who are engaged on a ‘temporary’ basis. However, the precise nature of a ‘temporary’ assignment remains ripe for further litigation.
In this case a number of workers were employed by an agency and assigned to a particular client for an indefinite period. In fact, the periods during which the workers had been working at the particular client’s premises ranged from 6 to 25 years. The workers sought declarations that they were entitled to the protections contained in the AWRs.
These workers had written particulars of employment which contained many of the features of a permanent contract of employment and provided the address of the client as their place of work. The Employment Tribunal rejected their claims on the basis that the workers were not working ‘temporarily’. The tribunal found that they could not be covered by the AWR as they were not ‘temporary’ agency workers, having contracts of indefinite duration.
The workers appealed. In upholding the findings of the tribunal, the EAT further considered the definition of ‘temporary’. The EAT drew the distinction between a permanent employment contract which is open ended in duration and a temporary contract which can be terminated on the expiry of a fixed term or completion of a specific project.
Furthermore, the AWR brings the provisions of the EU Temporary Workers Directive into force in the UK. The EAT found that there was nothing in the directive to support the idea that agency workers assigned on a permanent basis were supposed to benefit from the same protections.
You can read the judgment here.