Following the Stevens v Northolt High School Employment Tribunal (ET) ruling (ET/3300621/2014), contractor clients could be the ones paying out if a contractor has not been paid the same as permanent employees according to the requirements of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (AWR).
Locum music teacher Georgia Stevens was awarded a payout of over £10,000 against her former client, Northolt High School, as a result of being underpaid by £98 for 111 days. The agency escaped any liability because it had taken the reasonable steps required by the regulations to determine the pay and conditions of a comparable worker at the school.
Stevens made her claim for underpayment under regulations 5 and 6 of the AWR, which require that after 12 weeks, temporary workers are paid the same amount as permanent staff in the same position.
Following her appointment as temporary head of music at Northolt High School, Stevens asked her agency Teach 24 Ltd what she should be paid after the 12 week qualifying period. Teach 24 in turn asked the client about pay and conditions, Northolt High School, on more than one occasion but received no response.
After 12 weeks and no increase in pay, Stevens asked Teach 24 whether it would pursue a claim for increased pay. Stevens was told by her agency that her claim would not be worth the cost, although not that she could pursue a claim independently, which is what she did.
The ET found that Teach24’s repeated attempts to discover what the pay and conditions of a comparable direct hire would be satisfied the legislation’s requirements for the agency to take reasonable steps to determine this. As a result, the tribunal judge ruled that Northolt High School was liable for the full cost of the claim.
There have been few AWR cases reaching tribunal stage since the legislation came into force in October 2011. The regulations allows for either the agency or the end-user client or both to foot the bill for any successful claim for equal pay, depending on which the tribunal felt was at fault.
This case is believed to be the first where the end-user client and not the recruitment agency has been liable for compensating the worker as a result of a successful claim.