Maternity Pay for Agency Workers: What Do You Need to Know?

Clare Parkinson

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06 Aug 2018

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Do you know about maternity pay for agency workers? An agency worker has a contract with an agency—as you'd expect. But the agency worker works for a hirer on a temporary basis, for example, a 12-week contract. There are different types of agencies out there, such as recruitment, modelling, and entertainment to name but a few.

Of course, many female workers who have a contract with an agency will get pregnant. So, do you get maternity pay on a temporary contract, such as when working for an agency?

Qualifying Criteria: How Can Agency Workers Get Statutory Maternity Pay?

For an agency worker to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), they must:

  • Have told the agency about their pregnancy, and the date upon which they expect their SMP to start.
  • They have earned at least (or above) the current Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) in an eight-week period. As of 2018/19, the Lower Earnings Limit is £116 per week.
  • Be involved with the same agency for a continuous 26 weeks by the start of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. She must remain engaged by the same agency in the qualifying week.

If an agency worker is unable to accumulate 26 weeks' continuous engagement because they're on paid annual leave, or they're off for sickness, or the agency has no work to offer, then they can still qualify for SMP.

Maternity Rights For Agency Workers

It is illegal to discriminate against agency workers on the following grounds. The agency worker:

  • Is pregnant.
  • Gave birth within the last six months.
  • Is breastfeeding.

The following actions are also examples of discrimination if to do with the agency worker's pregnancy:

  • Agency refuses to place the worker in a job.
  • Hirer refuses to hire the agency worker.
  • Hirer terminates the job because the agency worker is pregnant.
  • Agency refuses to keep the pregnant worker on their books.
  • Agency only offers the pregnant worker short jobs, saving the longer opportunities for other agency workers.
  • Hirer refuses to let the worker come back because the worker took leave for their maternity.

Health Risks To Agency Workers

A hirer should make reasonable adjustments so that a pregnant worker or new mother worker can do their job successfully. If this is not possible, the agency must find alternative work for the worker, or pay the worker at the same rate for what would've been the length of the contract.

Antenatal Care For Agency Workers

Once an agency worker has 12 weeks in one job, they can get paid time off to attend antenatal care if it's not possible for the worker to arrange the antenatal care outside of their working hours. They will also be eligible for pay if their travel time is during their working hours. Antenatal care includes antenatal classes, appointments, and—if a doctor or midwife recommends them—parenting classes.

Maternity Leave For Agency Workers

Agency workers cannot take maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave. Currently, only people with the employment status of employee have access to these rights.

Talk To An Expert

If you want to know about maternity pay for full-time employees, read our guide here. Or for information about maternity allowance if you're self-employed, click here. For more information about maternity pay for temporary workers, contact our employment law experts today on 0808 145 3382.

About the Author

Clare Parkinson has over 20 years’ experience in the Croner Reward business. As Business Manager, Clare leads a team of Reward Consultants who specialise in the delivery of pay and grading related advice, including tailored pay benchmarking and gender pay reports.

Over the years, Clare has contributed to various industry publications on topics such as gender pay, executive remuneration and market pay trends.

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