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Health and safety for agency/temporary workers

Introduction

This guidance will help users and suppliers of agency/temporary workers and agency/temporary workers understand their health and safety responsibilities.

In this guidance "employment agency" means the business (whether or not carried on with a view to profit and whether or not carried on in conjunction with any other business) of providing services (whether by the provision of information or otherwise) for the purpose of finding persons employment with employers or of supplying employers with persons for employment by them.

An "employment business" means the business (whether or not carried on with a view to profit and whether or not carried on in conjunction with any other business) of supplying persons in the employment of the person carrying on the business, to act for, and under the control of, other persons in any capacity.

Definitions

Temporary Employees

A business might recruit workers directly for short periods of time without using a third party agency.  This could include taking on additional retail staff during busy summer or Christmas periods, or taking on administrative staff to meet short term increases in work.  In such cases the recruited worker is an employee, and the business is their employer and has responsibility for their health and safety in the same way as for all their employees.

Agency Workers

This term commonly refers to an individual who is supplied by an employment agency to work for another (the ‘end user’/ ‘principle’).  In this case the employment agency is a recruitment agency and once they have introduced the worker to an employer the relationship between the worker and the agency ends.  The employer has responsibility for the workers health and safety in the same way as for any employee. 

If an employment business places a worker for short periods of work with an employer (end user) but the worker remains under a contractual relationship with the employment business, then the guidance for temporary workers applies.

Temporary Workers

There is no single, clear cut definition of a temporary worker as there are often a number of different intermediaries involved, including:

For more information on employment status, including Agency workers and workers, see:

Guidance for Users and Suppliers of Agency/Temporary workers

In many cases the employment business will be the employer of the temporary worker, since it retains ultimate control over their services.

In practice, the day-to-day responsibility for health and safety during the assignment will lie with the end user. It will be in the best position to manage the health and safety of the temporary worker as it will direct the worker’s activities and control the premises where that work takes place. The end user must ensure the safety of its temporary workers, as it does that of its own employees.

The employment agency and the employment business however, must take reasonable steps to identify any known risks concerning health and safety and  satisfy itself that the end user has taken steps to prevent or control the known risks. This must be done before the work starts and must include obtaining the following information from the end user:

Co-operation and communication between all those involved in using and supplying temporary workers is key to protecting their health and safety. Continuing to do so throughout the period of the assignment, including with the workers themselves, will help ensure that responsibilities are clear. It is important to agree who does what and not assume the ‘other side’ will take responsibility. This will mean working together to ensure you:

If the end user provides the necessary information to the employment business, the employment business must pass it on to the worker. The employment business should not send the temporary worker to a job unless they are satisfied their health and safety will be protected.

All those involved should carry out their work in such a way as to ensure the temporary worker is not exposed to health and safety risks. This may mean obtaining appropriate assurance from others in the supply/user chain, or it may mean taking responsibility to ensure the temporary worker is protected at work

For basic health and safety information, see Health and Safety Made Simple.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Employees cannot be charged for provision of protective equipment that is required to do the job. This includes agency workers, if they are legally regarded as your employees.  For temporary workers, in many cases the employment business would be the employer and would be responsible for ensuring any necessary protective equipment is provided.

Accident reporting

Where a worker is not an employee, the duty to report an incident under RIDDOR is on the end user, as the person in control of the premises where an incident occurs. 

Further information

Non-English speakers

For temporary workers who do not speak or understand English well or at all, our Migrant worker web site provides advice and guidance and can be translated in to other languages.

Guidance for Agency/Temporary Workers

All workers are entitled to work in an environment where the risks to their health and safety are properly controlled.  If you are an agency or temporary worker then your health and safety is protected by law and employment businesses (agencies) have a duty to make sure that they follow it.  

For general information on workplace health and safety, see:
Your health your safety: A brief guide for workers

Updated 2016-04-07