This article was published on May 2nd, 2014
Moran v Ideal Cleaning Services
Agency workers are not employees. But over the years the distinction between the two has blurred. Agency workers with at least 12 weeks’ service are now entitled to the same basic employment rights and working conditions as if they had been recruited directly. It’s valuable protection that goes some way towards levelling the playing field between these temporary workers and the employees they work alongside.
But the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has decided that workers on “indefinite” or “permanent” assignments are not covered by the Agency Workers Regulations and so don’t get employee-equivalent rights. It’s a pretty significant shift in the general understanding of the law.
The case involved ten workers who were employed by Ideal. From the very beginning they were put on assignment at a company called Celanese. These assignments were long-term (the Claimants had worked there for between six and 25 years). Contracts were open-ended, they specified Celanese’s premises as the place of work and employment was terminable on notice.
When the Claimants were made redundant they argued that they were entitled to better conditions, including higher rates of pay. They didn’t succeed. The EAT held that as the Claimants were working for Celanese on a permanent basis there was nothing temporary about the arrangement and so they were not covered by the Agency Worker Regulations. These Claimants’ contracts could not be terminated by some condition expiring (for example, the end of a fixed-term or completion of a task) and so the legislation didn’t apply.
This might not be the final word on the subject. There’s a chance that the Claimants could be knocking on the door of the Court of Appeal.