Closing the loopholes for agency workers

An injustice diminished isn't an injustice ended! That's the key message behind CWU's campaign designed to expose and ultimately close clever legal loopholes that are being used by employers to deny a new generation of agency workers hard won rights to equal treatment.

**Latest news**:

Labour leader welcomes BT's conversion of agency workers
18th December 2014
The Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has welcomed BT's commitment to 'convert' hundreds of agency workers employed at Consumer call centres across the country on to permanent BT contracts.

Doncaster call centre BT agency workers awarded permanent contracts following CWU campaign
15th October 2014
BT Consumer announced that it is to offer permanent BT contracts to over 270 agency staff who have worked for the company for over two years.

Zero hours figures "don't tell the whole picture"
30th April
Figures releasedabout zero-hour contracts fail to show the full story say the CWU. Statistics show that nearly half of big companies in the UK use zero-hour contracts but this figure does not include other 'flexible' contracts.

LabourList: Legal loophole used to exploit agency workers must be closed , 26th March 2014
Writing for LabourList, former general secretary Billy Hayes explains why a clever legal loophole to undercut permanent employees and exploit temporary workers must be closed.

Fighting agency exploitation the Brussels way, 24th January 2014       SOS Brussels A CWU delegation took the plight of exploited agency workers to Brussels this week as part of the union's Closing the Loopholes campaign. Presenting detailed evidence of what the union believes is systematic abuse of EU law in Britain to the European Parliament and the European Commission along with a petition of over 3,000 signatories, the delegation met with MEPs and officials from the European Commission to discuss the issue. Read more for the full report.

CWU welcomes TUC defence of agency rights,
2nd September 2013
The TUC's complaint to the European Commission over legal loopholes which allow UK companies to get out of laws meant to ensure equal pay for agency workers has been welcomed by the CWU. Commenting, Billy Hayes said: "This loophole must be closed to prevent thousands of agency workers - already on precarious terms - from being exploited. We're fully behind the TUC in this complaint to the European Commission and hope that swift action can be taken to close this loophole which flies in the face of the spirit of the original Directive." 

Petition to close agency loopholes, 12th June 2013
A petition against the use of Pay Between Assignments (PBA) contracts within BT and Manpower has been launched. "This petition will highlight the ever widening pay rates between longer-serving agency employees and newly employed staff who have been subject to the PBA contracts," explained Sally Bridge. "We hope this petition attracts a significant number of signatures to shame both BT and Manpower into dropping the use of the PBA contracts once and for all." Please download the petition and spread the word.

New impetus to agency battle, 16th May 2013
The importance of the CWU's 'Closing the Loopholes' campaign to end the "immoral and unethical" abuse of a new generation of agency workers was dramatically reaffirmed at CWU Annual Conference in Bournemouth in April.

Agency Day of Action on January 16 2013 was a resounding success. Events took place across the country with campaigners and members turning out in below freezing temperatures to support the fight for justice for agency workers. For the full report read: Agency workers shocked at equal pay snub and check out all the photos on Facebook.

For answers on agency workers' rights have a look at our Q&A or download the Agency workers directive factsheet.




This new campaign is born out of the success of the CWU's long-running 'Euro-trashed' campaign, seeking equal treatment for agency workers. This culminated in the implementation of the EU's Temporary Agency Workers Directive in UK law in 2011.

It hasn't taken long for unscrupulous employers to find new ways to reinvent pay inequality. Many companies are now exploiting loopholes in the UK's new Agency Regulations by drawing up contracts that exclude a new generation of agency workers from the right to equal treatment in terms of pay to that of directly employed staff undertaking comparable roles.

 Sally quote & pic    


One such way is through the introduction of 'Pay Between Assignment' contracts which effectively exempt agency workers from securing equal treatment by guaranteeing (not very much) pay when between work placements. This is allowed to be as little as one hour at minimum wage - but is set at a minimum of four hours' pay in Manpower contracts - and means workers never trigger qualification for equal treatment.

The campaign

The Pay Between Assignment (PBA) contracts are currently exploited by BT as an employer and Manpower as a hirer in BT call centres. Since April 2011 most new joiners have been required to sign such contracts which exempt them from the right to pay equal to that of directly employed staff undertaking comparable roles.

Fiercely contested by the CWU from the outset, these contracts now cover a fast growing minority of agency employees on the BT contract. Unless checked, over time this may result in the majority of agency employees losing out on the hard-won rights to equal pay with those benefitting at the moment becoming an ever-shrinking group.

Such an outcome, assistant secretary Sally Bridge insists, is something the CWU can never accept. "From the very outset of the 'Euro-trashed' campaign back in 2006 our aim has always been to secure employment fairness for all agency workers - not simply for a particular group which will inevitably get smaller over time.

"We did not come this far down the line only to fall at the last hurdle."

Listen to the podcast of Sally Bridge talking to Simon Sapper about the importance of the campaign and how the exploitation of agency workers impacts on young people, in particular.


CWU's National Agency Campaign team, led by national officer, Sally Bridge and members of the executive, will front this campaign to:

  • Secure amendments to the UK Agency Regulations which close current loopholes that currently enable hirers and employment agencies to exploit agency workers.
  • Raise the profile of agency issues amongst the CWU membership and to encourage our agency members to become active in the campaign.
  • Raise awareness at a political level and to secure support in order that this issue is brought back on to the political agenda.
  • Engage and work with the TUC and UNI to make this a wider trade union issue.
  • Give consideration to challenging the UK Agency Regulations within the European Commission.

The involvement of branches will be integral to the success of this campaign and more importantly the participation of agency members that are actually affected by these contracts.

Have a question? Check out the Q&A to find the answers, download the Agency workers directive factsheet or have a look at the news page for the latest on agency workers.

For more information please contact Sally Bridge on 0208 971 7311 or email

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