Using agency staff can be ideal, especially when you need emergency temporary cover. It can cost more than employing a temporary staff member directly, but a big benefit is that all of the administration is handled by the recruitment agency.
You usually pay the agency and the agency pays the worker. The rate the agency charges you could include elements of National Insurance payments, holiday and sick pay, as well as an administration fee and profit margin.
Rights of agency workers
Under the Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011, which came into force on 5 December 2011, agency workers are entitled to the same basic working and employment conditions as permanent staff, provided that they have been in the same role with the same employer for 12 weeks.
It is the recruitment agency's responsibility to ensure agency workers receive the rights they are entitled to such as those under the Working Time Regulations and national minimum wage law. See hours, rest breaks and the working week and National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage - rates and overview.
However, under the Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011, agency workers are also entitled to equal access to their employer's collective facilities and job vacancies from the first day of their assignment. It will be your responsibility to ensure that these rights are met. Agency workers regulations NI guidance.
You must also ensure that you do not discriminate against agency workers who are working on your business premises.
In addition, under the Parental Leave (EU Directive) (Flexible Working) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013, which came into force on 8 March 2013, employed agency workers who are returning to work from a period of parental leave are now also extended the right to request flexible working. See flexible working - the law and best practice.
Even though agency staff do not work directly for you, you are still responsible for their health and safety. In fact, they are likely to be at greater risk because they don't know the business well. See agency workers' health and safety for more information.
Choosing an employment agency
You should also do some research before using an employment agency to ensure you are happy with the agency's reputation.
By law, employment agencies must comply with the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005. These regulations stop them, for example, from charging workers fees for finding jobs. They must also ensure a worker has any qualifications legally required to do the work.