Last reviewed 5 September 2018

Andrew Willis explains maternity pay and rights 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 engagement.

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 they 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), she must:

  • have told the agency about her pregnancy, and the date upon which she expects her SMP to start

  • have earned at least (or above) the current lower earnings limit (LEL) in an eight-week period

  • be involved with the same agency for a continuous 26 weeks by the start of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (the “qualifying week”). She must continue working for the same agency in the qualifying week.

If an agency worker is unable to accumulate 26 weeks’ continuous engagement because she’s on paid annual leave, or she’s off for sickness, or the agency has no work to offer, then she 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 26 weeks

  • is breastfeeding.

The following actions are also examples of discrimination if they are due to an 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 its 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 her maternity.

Health risks to agency workers

A hirer should make reasonable adjustments so that a pregnant worker or new mother worker can do her job successfully.

If this is not possible, and the worker has 12 weeks’ continuous engagement in one job, the agency must offer the worker suitable alternative work on equal terms, or suspend the worker on full pay for what would have been the length of the contract.

Antenatal care for agency workers

Once an agency worker has 12 weeks in one job, she can get paid time off to attend antenatal care if it’s not possible for her to arrange the antenatal care outside of her working hours.

She will also be eligible for payment if her travel time (to the appointment) is during her working hours.

Antenatal care includes antenatal classes, appointments, and — if a doctor or midwife recommends them — parenting classes.

Maternity leave for agency workers

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

Talk to an expert

For more information about maternity pay for temporary workers, contact Croner on 0808 1454 436.