This advice applies to Northern Ireland. Change country
Can your agency charge you fees?
An employment agency must not charge you a fee for finding you work or trying to find you work. However, the agency can charge you for other services such as:
- CV writing
- providing a uniform
- cleaning uniforms
- providing living accommodation
- providing help with transport
- providing training.
The agency must not make you buy these services in return for them finding you work.
What information must the agency give you about services it charges for?
If the agency charges you for services, you must be given full written details of what they are. These should include your right to cancel or withdraw from the services.
Can you cancel services the agency charges you for?
You can cancel any services the agency charges you for without suffering a penalty. These include services for accommodation, transport or training.
Your agreement with the agency should also include how much notice you must give if you want to cancel or withdraw from the service. To make sure you're not charged a penalty you must give the correct notice.
By law, you must give a minimum of ten working days' written notice to the agency to cancel living accommodation and a minimum of five working days' notice for all other services. The agreement may say that you must give the agency more than the minimum notice. You should check your contract to find out what the notice period is.
How do agency services affect your minimum wage
If the agency charges you for accommodation
The agency can take money out of your wages for accommodation it provides so that you can do your job. It is allowed to deduct up to £5.35 each day without this counting as reducing your minimum wage. This means that your actual pay may be less than the National Minimum Wage once your accommodation costs are taken off.
You are paid £6.70 an hour for a 40-hour week. Your employer deducts £33.50 for accommodation which is provided seven days a week. The national minimum wage is £6.70 per hour and the amount allowed for the accommodation deduction is £5.35 per day.
Your weekly pay is £6.70 x 40 hours = £268.00.
The maximum amount the agency is allowed to deduct for accommodation per week is £5.35 x 7 days = £37.45.
Because the amount taken for accommodation falls within the maximum daily amount the agency is allowed to charge, it does not count towards reducing your wages.
You will still be classed as being paid the minimum wage of £6.70 per hour even though £33.50 is deducted from your pay every week for your accommodation and you are actually receiving £268.00 - £33.50 = £234.50 per week.
If the agency charges you for travel, meals or uniforms
If the agency takes money out of your wages for the following services it must make sure that the deduction does not take your pay below the level of the national minimum wage. Deductions that an agency is allowed to make are:
- a payment to you to cover your travel costs from your home to the temporary workplace
- because the agency provides you with meals or refreshments
- because the agency provides you with a uniform or laundry services.
Taking action if your pay falls below the National Minimum Wage
If the agency takes money out of your wages for travel, meals or uniforms and your pay falls below the National Minimum Wage (NMW), you can write to the agency to remind them that it is against the law to take money out of your wages that will make your pay fall below the NMW level. This may be enough for them to increase your wages.
If you need help to do this, you can ask an experienced Citizens Advice Bureau Adviser to write to the agency without naming you.
If you are not being paid at least the National Minimum Wage or Agricultural Wage and do not want to take action against the agency or the employer, you can make a complaint to the Pay and Rights Helpline. They can take up your complaint with the agency without naming you.
If you think your agency is taking too much from your pay you can get help from an experienced adviser at your local Citizens Advice.
You can report a problem with the National Minimum Wage on GOV.UK if you think your employer is breaking the rules.
Other useful information
Find out more about your employment rights and how to deal with problems you might come across at work:
There is more information on agency fees on the Directgov website at www.direct.gov.uk.