When do I qualify for AWR ‘week-13’ rights?

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (AWR) entitle agency workers to certain rights that aim to bring their working conditions closer in line with that of permanent staff in comparable roles. Some of these rights are applicable from day one, such as the right to access the same facilities (like the staff canteen). Others come into effect after 12 weeks, for example the right to equal pay and breaks. We call these ‘week-13 rights’.

To be more specific, your week-13 rights kick in after you’ve worked ‘in the same role with the same hirer for 12 continuous calendar weeks, during one or more assignments’, says Regulation 7(2) of the AWR. The weeks don’t need to be consecutive – you can take breaks in between, but only for certain reasons.

It will often be straightforward to identify when you’ve reached week 13, especially for longer assignments. However if you tend to work on shorter contracts with various hirers, it can be more complicated. This guide will work for everyone, but people who move around a lot, such as day-to-day supply teachers, will find it especially helpful.

Start with a calendar

To identify the date when you’ll complete the 12-week qualifying period in a particular role with a particular hirer, start by mapping out a calendar that begins on the very first day you worked for them. We recommend using a spreadsheet and listing all the dates in one column. You will need to do this process separately for each hirer that you work for (and for each role) and please, before you start, read our FAQ Who is the ‘Hirer’ for AWR purposes?

Beside each date, indicate if you worked for the hirer in question and also if you worked for any other hirers. It doesn’t matter which agency placed you in the assignments or which umbrella company paid you for them.

Next, divide your calendar into weeks. An ‘AWR week’ starts on the first day that you worked for a hirer. So if your first day was a Wednesday, your ‘AWR week’ runs Wednesday – Tuesday. Any time we refer to ‘weeks’ in this article, we’re talking about AWR weeks.

Categorise each week

Start categorising the weeks by following each of these steps in turn:

  1. For each week that you do work for this hirer, highlight it green or put a tick beside it – even if you only work for an hour.
  2. For each week that you don’t work for this hirer but you do work for another hirer, highlight it red or put a cross beside it. The only exception to this is if you were supposed to still be on assignment with the hirer in question but it ended early on maternity grounds. If that applies to you, you can highlight it green or put a tick beside it.
  3. For any weeks when you didn’t work at all for reasons related to pregnancy, childbirth or maternity, or you were taking maternity, paternity or adoption leave, and it was during an assignment, highlight it green or put a tick beside it. By ‘during an assignment’, we mean it was during your assignment’s original intended duration or its likely duration (whichever is longer).
  4. When you’ve got a full week or more where you didn’t work at all, check whether you’ve got more than six weeks in a row where this is the case. If it’s less than six weeks, highlight these weeks orange or put a ‘pause’ symbol beside them.

If you’ve got a full week where you didn’t work at all and this is the case for more than six weeks in a row, how you categorise it depends on the reason for the break. You can highlight these weeks orange or put a ‘pause’ symbol beside them only if the break was for one or more of these reasons:

  • You were unable to work due to sickness or injury, your break lasted less than 28 weeks and you provided any written medical evidence that you were asked for
  • You were taking leave to which you’re entitled, such as annual leave
  • You were on jury service and your break lasted less than 28 weeks
  • There was a regular and planned shutdown of the workplace by the hirer, for example a school closing for the summer holidays
  • Your workplace was closed due to industrial action

For any weeks you haven’t been able to categorise so far, highlight them red or put a cross beside them. To clarify, this will apply to all breaks of more than six weeks that aren’t for any of the specific reasons mentioned in this article.

Count your qualifying weeks

To identify the date when your week-13 weeks kick in with this hirer, you need to count how many ‘qualifying weeks’ you’ve completed. This is a bit more complex than it first seems and it’s because the qualifying weeks don’t always have to be consecutive. This is a good thing because it makes allowances for the irregular working patterns of many agency workers.

Think of it as a clock which runs from zero to 12. Each time you complete a qualifying week, the clock moves forward. Each time you take a break, the clock will either pause, reset or keep ticking, depending on the reason for the break.

Weeks that are highlighted green or have a tick

These are ‘qualifying weeks’. You’ll usually have ticked them because you worked for the hirer that week, and therefore it counts as a qualifying week regardless of whether you worked for other hirers, what else you might have done that week or how long your assignment was. As long as you spent some time working for the hirer, it counts.

If you took any time off for reasons related to starting a family, you may have completed some qualifying weeks during this time too.

Weeks that are highlighted orange or have a pause symbol

You can ignore these weeks. Your qualifying clock is paused for the time being, because you took a break from work that either lasted less than six weeks or was for one of the other reasons provided for by Regulation 7(8) of the AWR.

Weeks that are highlighted red or have a cross

Unfortunately, these weeks cause your clock to reset to zero. If you don’t work for the hirer for a full week but you do work elsewhere, or if you take more than six weeks off for reasons other than those that the AWR allows for, your clock automatically resets. Any qualifying weeks you’ve completed before this point will not count.

Any time your clock resets, you need to start this whole process again from the next day that you work with this hirer. This will often mean a change to your ‘AWR week’, for example if it used to run Wednesday – Tuesday, but your first working day with the hirer after the clock reset was a Monday, it would now run Monday – Friday.

Identify your qualification date

Once you have completed 12 continuous qualifying weeks with this hirer, you will be entitled to week-13 rights from the next working week onwards – unless your clock resets before you go back to work for them.

To identify the point when your entitlement kicks in, you’re looking for the 13th week in a row that you’ve highlighted green or ticked, without any clock resets (i.e. weeks that you’ve highlighted red or crossed) breaking the chain. Remember, you can ignore weeks when your clock was paused.

Let your agency know

As you’ll have seen, identifying when an agency worker qualifies for their week-13 rights can be complex. There are various parties involved – the hirer, one or more recruitment agencies, one or more umbrella companies and the agency worker themselves – and it’s likely that none of them individually have the whole picture. The most effective approach is therefore to work together.

This guide is intended to help you calculate when your own week-13 rights kick in. We can’t guarantee that it accounts for every single circumstance covered in the legislation, but following the process we’ve outlined should give you a reasonably accurate idea of when you’re entitled to these rights. When you’re approaching that point, drop your recruitment agency a quick email asking them to look into it and attaching a copy of the calendar you created.

If you are a Key Portfolio employee and you have any concerns at all that you’re not receiving everything you’re entitled to under the AWR, please contact us straight away.

Further reading