Acas uses cookies to ensure we give you the best experience and to make the site simpler. Find out more about cookies.

Website URL : The Control Id 'trail' could not be resolved to an actual control., Type=iCMRender.Controls.Value, ID=MainBlock (~/subsite/acas/masterpages/MainPageWide.master)

Adrian Wakeling: Listening to agency workers

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Adrian Wakeling, Senior Policy Analyst at Acas, comments on the complex triangular relationship between agency workers, hirers and agencies, following a new Acas Employment Relations Comment published today.

Adrian Wakeling

Adrian is a Senior Policy Analyst at Acas and is part of a team responsible for informing the future strategic direction of Acas and influencing the wider debate on the value of employment relations.

Adrian Wakeling Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window


As every student of English Literature surely knows, you can never really understand a person until you "climb in his skin and walk around in it" (Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird').

Walking around inside someone's skin is not an option for today's policymakers, but listening is not only an option but a necessity.

When the Agency Worker Regulations were developed, for example, government listened to both sides of industry - most notably, in reaching the twelve week compromise, they listened to the CBI and the TUC. And when the detailed guidance on the regulations was being drawn up, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills listened to a wide range of stakeholders - including Acas, trade unions, lawyers and trade organisations such as the Recruitment Employment Confederation (REC).

Three years on from the introduction of the regulations, what are people saying about how they have been working? Perhaps the most contentious issue has been around the use of 'Swedish derogation' contractual arrangements, whereby workers get paid between assignments but waive their rights to equal treatment in respect of pay and other working conditions. In a recent blog, the Chief Executive of the REC, Kevin Green, said that the Swedish Derogation arrangements "are not 'a loophole' ... but a legitimate part of the 2010 Agency Workers Regulations" whilst in the past the TUC has called for a ban on the use of such clauses. 

What has always made this employment relationship so complex is its triangular nature - with a need to balance the interests of workers, hirers and agencies. The issue of achieving this balance is perhaps the critical underlying principle at the heart of a fair and prosperous labour market: weighing up the protection of individual employment rights, on the one hand, against the need for business flexibility on the other hand.

Acas research has found that, certainly amongst callers to the Acas helpline, this balance might be out of kilter, and weighted towards the hirer and the agency and less in favour of the worker.

Find out more about what our helpline callers said in pdf icon Three sides to every story: the impact of the Agency Worker Regulations [129kb].

And find out what our specially commissioned research uncovered: pdf icon The effects of Agency Workers Regulations on agency and employer practice [742kb].


Add a comment+
  • Posted by Adrian  |  26 November 2015, 11:17AM

    Hello Urszula, if you contact the Acas helpline they can arrange for a translator to help with your employment query. The helpline number is 0300 123 1100 and lines are open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturday. Best wishes

  • Posted by Urszula  |  26 November 2015, 10:16AM
    Hello Adrian, I need an employment advice but I not feel confident with my my spoken English. I prefer to write.Is there any chance to contact with ACAS via email.or maybe you provide some translator. Thank you for you reply.
  • Posted by Adrian Wakeling  |  28 September 2015, 3:06PM

    Hello Abigail

    It is very difficult to comment on your personal experience without knowing all the indvidual circumstances. You might like to take a look at our guidance, which is avaliable on this website ( or call our helpline. The number is 0300 123 1100 and lines are open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturday. Our advisors will be able to give you free and impartial advice.

    The point you raise about 'moral guidance' is an interesting one. Acas would say that the 'good practice' advice and guidance it offer tries to encourage employers to do the right thing. This can mean following regulations or behaving correctly or, ideally, both.

    Best wishes.    

  • Posted by Abigail  |  28 September 2015, 2:36PM


    I have worked as an agency worker for many years and was very pleased when the Agency Workers Regulatins came into effect.

    Recently I have come into conflict with my 'employer' regarding the disciplinary issue. I was given no warning or opportunity to appeal, just excluded from certain departments.

    My 'employer' has no obligation and no apparent moral guidance on this matter because I am an agency worker. Apparently this I s not covered by the new regulations.

    Any thoughts?

  • Posted by Elizabeth  |  11 May 2015, 4:20PM

    I work for an agency who supplies workers for the SportsDirect company, just been laid off, 

    we worked Saturday and all last week, heard nothing Sunday came back from a day out recieved txt, no longer needed.

    Went to the employment Agency and went on the job site and guess who are hiring for jobs, my agency and for the same job, just shy of 12 months worked, no time off for sickness.

    Now were is the firness in that, this country has lost its morals.



  • Posted by Adrian Wakeling  |  1 April 2015, 9:32AM

    Hello Lesley, thanks for your thoughts. You are right, the use of direct payments and the employment relationship this creates between often vulnerable adults and their personal assistants needs to be discussed more widely. Becoming an employer can be challenging for anyone, but if your employee's job is to look after your personal needs, this clearly adds another dimension.

    You might be interested in our policy paper on the subject: "Disabled and elderly people and their personal assistants: the challenges of a unique employment relationship". You can find it here:


  • Posted by Lesley Watson  |  26 March 2015, 12:31PM

    FAO: Adrian Wakeling, 

    Hello Adrian, may I bring to your attention that one of the areas that has been unrepresented within the 'care sector' is that of the direct payments. 

    I have in the past year and hal11/2 yrs been trying to raise awareness to the lack of professionalism in this field. Vulnerable people who are becoming employers, may not truly undertand the impact of their legal responsiblilites.

    I previously worked in the DP area and flagged up a number ofissues via my then employer! (the commissioned provider for payroll/support service) and consequesntly lost my job.

    I am now a Personal Assistant (PA) (under the scheme) and understand areas that others may not! I am advocating on behalf of PA's as there is no service or provison to enable or empower us in this field. I have been doing this role for 21/2 yrs and had no training, induction or cpd.

    My previous field is in the care management process and i have a 1st class BA (Hons) so undertand the theory with the pratical, and in particular have been advocating for employers, for eg my employer (who has capacity) does not know employment law at all. I have to inform her when min wage is increasing, what she needs to ask for and what is wrong with the contract!.

    I feel I have a duty of care to ensure people fully understand their responsibilites and people are receiving full employment rights. Support services/payrolls (penderels) state and express they do not support PA's only employers!. 

    I am looking at setting up a campaign.       

Add a comment+