The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has cast doubt on union claims that recruitment agencies may be forced to offer full employment rights to temporary workers, following a ruling by an employment tribunal.
The tribunal ruled that Sheila Ncube, who worked as an agency nurse for 24/7 Healthcare Agency, should have been considered a full-time employee, including rights of unfair dismissal, redundancy, maternity and paternity and holiday pay.
The case came to tribunal when 24/7 became insolvent and was taken over by another agency, TrustHealthcare, which refused to pay Ncube annual leave.
TrustHealthcare told her she was not entitled to annual leave pay as she was a temporary worker, not an employee, and when companies become insolvent they are not liable for temporary workers.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) advised Ncube to take the case to tribunal, which ruled against TrustHealthcare.
Kevin McNermey, RCN senior legal officer, said: “We are very pleased with the ruling – this will be a major breakthrough for agency nurses, who are not always recognised by agencies as employees, leaving them in a vulnerable position.
“This decision will be far-reaching not only nurses, but for supply teachers, admin staff and for anyone who is with an agency, as they can have the same rights as employees.”
But Anne Fairweather, external relations manager at the REC, said the the ruling is “very unlikely” to set a precedent in terms of the employment status of agency nurses or other agency workers as the findings of employment tribunals are specific to the case taken alone
“This case was taken under particular circumstances,” she said. “In order to claim her holiday pay, Ncube had to establish that she was an employee of the first agency for the provisions under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employees) legislation to have effect. As an employee of the first agency she was therefore entitled to claim her holiday pay from the second agency.”