Are recruitment agencies regulated?

Recruitment Agencies Regulation UK

Maybe surprisingly for you, the recruitment industry is quite heavily regulated in the UK: there are laws, bodies in charge of enforcing the laws, trade associations and a complaint process in case of issues.

This article explores:

  • the recruitment agencies’ regulations in the UK
  • the bodies in charge of enforcing the recruitment agencies’ regulations
  • the employment protection of agency workers

What are the recruitment agencies’ regulations in the UK?

The main pieces of legislation that regulate employment agencies in the UK are:

There are also specific requirements in certain sectors such as agriculture, horticulture, and shellfish gathering, where recruitment agencies need a licence from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

These titles are all a handful, aren’t they?

What are the bodies in charge of enforcing these laws in the UK?

There are 5 bodies in charge of enforcing these laws in the UK.

  • the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate (EAS) – in charge of ensuring that the employment agency legislation is respected
  • the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) who is there to ensure that all agencies pay the National Minimum Wage
  • the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who ensures that the maximum weekly working hours is enforced and deals with working time issues
  • the Rural Payments Agency, who deals with agricultural wages
  • the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) who deals with issues regarding agency workers in agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering, processing or packaging.

What are the professional bodies or trade associations for recruitment agencies in the UK?

There are 2 professional bodies in the UK who both have codes of conduct that their members need to agree with:

  • the REC, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation with 6,606 members
  • APSCo, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies with 698 members, with recruitment agencies providing white collar agency workers.

Is there a complaint process if you’re unhappy about a recruitment agency?

In case of issues, hiring companies and agency workers can raise a complaint against a recruitment agency by reaching out to:

  • REC or APSCo if the complaint is raised against a REC or APSCo member who has broken their respective code of conduct
  • ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), an independent body in charge of helping resolving workplace conflicts. ACAS will direct the complaint to the relevant body (either EAS, HMRC, HSE, Rural Payment Agency or GLAA). ACAS can be reached through their online helpline or phone helpline (0300 123 1100).

If you’re interested in learning more about how the recruitment industry is regulated in the UK, REC has produced an interesting factsheet to explain, at a high level, how it works, as well as a great blog.

Still thinking that the industry is not regulated?

What are the legal obligations of recruitment agencies in the UK?

The responsibilities of recruitment agencies are clearly explained in the UK government guidance.

Recruitment agencies must make sure workers are:

  • have the right to work in the UK
  • paid for all the work they do, even if they have not been paid by the hiring company or even if their timesheet has not been signed-off
  • paid holidays
  • not forced to work longer than 48 hours a week
  • paid at least the National Minimum Wage
  • protected under health and safety law
  • given written terms of employment
  • have the right professional qualifications for the role.

These are significant responsibilities. Checking the agencies’ workers compliance with the law is complex and can take time. This is a service you pay for when you use a recruitment agency, included in their margin.

To conclude…

Temporary recruitment agencies are heavily regulated in the UK, to protect both their workers, and the companies in which they place their temporary staff.

If you’re considering using a temporary recruitment agency, why not use TempaGoGo? TempaGoGo helps you find and work with multiple recruitment agencies at once, when you need temporary staff, particularly when it’s at short notice!

If there are regulatory areas you’d like to learn more about, please let me know! I’d love to hear from you!


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