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Protection for Agency Workers

Protection For Agency Workers

02 November 2009 13:38

Eleven employment agencies have been warned by the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate (EAS) after advertising for asbestos removal workers without properly checking the health and safety implications.

EAS acted swiftly after receiving intelligence from the sector that employment agencies were advertising vacancies for asbestos removal workers without having the proper Health and Safety Executive (HSE) licenses. The inspectors found that, although no workers had been placed yet, the agencies weren't taking the necessary steps to prevent risk to them.  The inspectorate therefore issued warning letters.

Failure of any agency to address the non-compliance could result in criminal proceedings or a possible ban from trading of up to 10 years.

The warnings came as the campaign to raise awareness of workplace rights enforced by Government switched its focus to agency workers today. Advertisements on hoardings, buses and phone boxes will encourage agency workers to seek advice about their workplace rights and report abuses of those rights through a confidential helpline. Leaflets are also being produced for agencies to help make them aware of their legal obligations to workers.

Lord Young said:

"This operation shows that EAS act quickly and effectively to protect both agency workers and the public.

"The Government has done a lot to improve rights at work but it's also essential to make sure these rights are properly enforced. A simple system for reporting abuses and giving advice and information to employers and workers is a critical part of that.

"The recession should not become an excuse to deny people their basic rights at work".

In the week of the launch of the Health and Safety Executive's campaign warning tradesmen on the dangers of asbestos, Steve Coldrick, HSE's asbestos programme director said:

"Asbestos is a killer. It claims about 4000 lives a year − more than die in road accidents. It should be of no concern to the general public if it remains undisturbed and in good condition, but the same cannot be said for tradespeople who may come across it in their work. While they need to take responsibility for their own health and safety, it is imperative that this is matched with a commitment by their employer to do the same."

Of the twelve agencies investigated, eleven were found not to have complied fully with the requirements of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003. 

A total of 57 infringements of the law were identified including:

·     Failing to explore the health and safety implications of the advertised work with the hirer and failing to fully inform the applicant of the risks

·     Failing to check the identity, qualifications, experience and training of the worker they intended to supply

·    Failing to have authority from hirers to advertise the positions 

Businesses who supply agency workers can find further information on their legal obligations at or by calling the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.

Notes to editors

1    Agency workers can find out more about the rights they are entitled to by visiting or by calling the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.

2    The Employment Agencies Standards inspectorate is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. To find out more about the EAS, please visit

3    Agencies that break the law could face prosecution and on April 6, 2009 new laws came into force that allows courts to impose unlimited fines for the most serious offences. Rogue agencies could also be banned from operating for up to ten years.

4    The Health and Safety Executive's 'Asbestos: The hidden killer' campaign launched on 2 November. Posters and radio adverts are encouraging tradesmen to get a free asbestos information pack by calling 0845 345 0055 or by visiting" href="blocked::BLOCKED::">  The information highlights where asbestos-containing materials may be present, what they look like, how they should be dealt with and where to find training.

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.


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