Published 24 September 10

Staff provided by an agency

In most instances, staff provided by an agency specialising in agricultural workers are either employed by that agency - and contracted out to businesses who pay a fee to the agency - or are self-employed and paid by the agency. The agency is responsible for wages, National Insurance payments, holiday pay and sick pay.

Some agencies, however, simply act as a means of recruitment, providing a 'short cut' for employers looking for staff they wish to employ directly but utilising out-sourced recruitment expertise.

The differentiation between agency staff employed by the user business and agency staff employed by the agency itself is crucial in defining the rights and responsibilities of the employer, and also the advantages and disadvantages of either means in procuring labour.

Where staff are employed by an agency, tax and NI contributions paid on behalf of these workers are not the responsibility of the business hiring their services. However, unless agency workers are genuinely self-employed (45®), they are covered by the working hours regulations, and user employers are responsible for ensuring that these regulations are complied with. The user business is also responsible for the health and safety of agency workers.

Compared to recruiting and employing someone directly, the service could prove to be significantly more expensive. However, the use of agency staff is ideal where, for example, temporary cover is required in short notice to cover sickness, and for certain management roles on farms, where farmers are willing to relinquish some control allowing contracted herd managers and herdsmen to providing the day-to-day running of a dairy unit, for example.

Employment agencies must be compliant with the Employment Agencies Act 1973 and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and also Employment Businesses Regulations 2003. These regulations stop them, for example, from charging workers fees for finding jobs and also obligates them to supply staff who are adequately qualified.

Using agency staff for relief cover can provide several advantages:

  • It offers flexibility in labour planning, particularly at busy times, for example in block-calving herds.
  • It can be convenient and relatively quick to acquire staff.
  • It can provide cover in emergency situations, for example when regular staff members are ill.

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