Engaging agency workers


Please refer to the Off Payroll Working (IR35) webpages before proceeding with any engagement.

The University is committed to ensuring that all members of its workforce are engaged on the most appropriate contract and that this engagement is completed in a transparent and fair way.

The University recognises the need for flexibility within its workforce to respond to various circumstances e.g.

  • short term absences;
  • peaks in demand;
  • seasonal variations;
  • one off events; or
  • to gain specialist skills/knowledge.

Where a department identifies such work, it may be appropriate to engage an agency worker.

Employment status

Understanding employment status

Before engaging an agency worker, it is important to understand their employment status.

An agency worker can be defined as either:

  • Self employed with the role of the Agency being to put individuals in touch with end users who need their services; or
  • ‘On the books’ of, or ‘fully employed by an Employment Agency Business.

For a contract of employment (employee status) to exist, three key elements must be present:

  • the individual must be under an obligation to perform the work personally;
  • there must be “mutuality of obligation” between the parties; and
  • the employer must have sufficient rights of control over the employee.

These 3 elements (above) should not be present for the engagement of an agency worker;

  • the agency may send a substitute to undertake the work, if the University were satisfied that they were capable/qualified to undertake the work;
  • the agency would be responsible for providing work to the agency worker;
  • the agency would have the right to control the agency worker.

Agency Worker Regulations

With effect from 1 October 2011, the University is obliged to treat agency workers the same as if they were employed by University of Sheffield, in relation to:

  • access to certain facilities, vacancy information and additional provisions for pregnant workers/new mothers from day one of engagement; and
  • access to ‘equal treatment’ in relation to basic terms & conditions once they have attained a 12-week qualifying period (not necessarily all gained in one engagement).

IR35/Off payroll working regulations

It is essential that agency workers are not used to fill long term vacancies and that the department does not imply a direct employment relationship with the worker. However, where an "employment type" relationship* exists in terms of the supervision, direction and control of the work being undertaken by the agency worker, the hiring department must confirm the position in writing to the Agency. This will ensure that the Agency is responsible for ensuring compliance with the revised HMRC IR35/Off payroll working regulations that are effective from 6 April 2017.

*An "employment type" relationship exists when a person performs work or services under certain conditions in return for remuneration.

Should you have any queries about employment status, please contact your Faculty HR Team Contact.

Employment summary

Employment summary for an agency worker

Key features

Key features of the relationship

The use of an agency workers provides quick access to a wide range of skills and experience with little administrative activity. However, all departments should be seeking to limit their agency usage where possible in order to control cost. As such, before proceeding to engage an agency worker you should assess your needs and the potential options available to you, as there may be more cost effective means of meeting these.

The integration of agency workers into University life should be limited to the extent necessary to be able to fulfil specific work requirements.

The hiring departments are responsible for sourcing an agency worker via the MyPurchase process. See the approved agency providers and hiring process for more information.

Employment rights and statutory obligations

Principal individual rights associated with contract

This may depend upon the nature of the individual’s contractual relationship with the Agency/Employment Business i.e. worker, employee or self-employed.

However, minimum rights of the worker include protection:

  • Against discrimination
  • Working Time Regulations
  • Whistleblowing
  • Data Protection Act 2018
  • National Minimum Wage Act
  • Health and Safety legislation
  • Access from day one to some University amenities and facilities
  • Access to relevant University of Sheffield employment terms once they have gained a 12 week qualifying period (as defined under the Agency Worker regulations 2010)

University statutory obligations

Immigration & Preventing Illegal Working: If using an Agency other than those from the Framework Agreement, to limit risk, consider negotiating a term with the employment agency that they will be responsible for undertaking the immigration checks for agency workers.

Pre-placement Checks: Any criminal record checks should be made when the individual would be working with vulnerable adults or children. These should be undertaken by the agency via the Disclosure and Barring Service. The Agency/Employment business must inform the University if it obtains information which gives it reasonable grounds to believe the work-seeker is unsuitable for the position and must end the supply of that work-seeker.

Health & Safety: Please see the Agency Workers’ Guidance for more information

Authorisation of engagement

Recruitment process: Recruitment is carried out as per the relevant Agency/Employment Business’s own recruitment processes.

The hiring department must provide set information to the Agency/Employment Business including:

  • Its nature of business;
  • Date on which an agency worker is required to commence;
  • Likely duration of work;
  • Equivalent University of Sheffield grade & point for the work to be undertaken (as if they had been employed by the University to undertake the work);
  • Position available (including type of work, the location, the hours, any H&S risks, steps taken to control such risks);
  • Experience, training, qualifications, authorisation required;
  • Expenses payable by or to the agency worker;
  • In the case of an agency, the minimum rate of remuneration and length of notice.

The Agency/Employment Business must obtain confirmation of the following (and provide in writing):

  • The agency worker’s identity
  • That the worker has the required experience, training, qualifications or authorisation for the post
  • The individual is willing to work in the position available
  • If they have been engaged for service or under a contract of employment.

Before providing services, an agency/employment business must also agree terms with the relevant University department.

Financial authorisation: Requires prior approval by Head of Department or relevant budget holder.  A Framework Order will need to be generated.

Responsibility for administration/record keeping: 

Responsibility for administration and record keeping is between the hiring department, the agency worker and the Agency/Employment Business.

The hiring department will need to ensure that they use a provider from the Framework Agreement (i.e. Hays and Spring Personnel), However, other agency providers may be required for specialist work. In such cases the hiring department may need to contact the Procurement Office to have a new Agency/Employment Business added to the vendor list.

Work allocation

Work allocation: Normally the Agency would identify an individual with appropriate skills and experience, based upon information supplied by the hiring department.

Day-to-day work activity is the responsibility of the hiring department.

Pay arrangements

Pay and grading: As per the Agency/Employment Business Contract with the individual. However, should they attain a 12 week qualifying period they will be entitled to the equivalent grade and basic terms as if appointed directly by the University to a comparable role undertaken by an existing UoS employee(so likely to incur greater costs).

For further information please see: Managers Summary of day one rights or Summary of Terms and Conditions after 12weeks.

Payment process: As per the Agency/Employment Business Contract with the Hiring Department.

Tax treatment: If the Agency/Employment Business is responsible for paying the individual it will be the agency’s responsibility to make appropriate deductions for tax and national Insurance contributions.

Other benefits

Staff benefits: See also ‘Pay and Grading’ section above for further information. Not eligible for UoS occupational benefits e.g. occupational levels of sick pay.  If the agency worker is paid by the Agency/Employment Business, the Agency will be responsible for ensuring that the National Minimum Wage and Working Time Regulations are complied with.  Agency workers have access to certain facilities from ‘day one’ of their engagement.

UCard Allocation: External UCard for building access and provision of email accounts, if appropriate.

Induction: See Induction Checklist.

Development and training: Not available.

Engaging agency workers

Engaging agency workers

Please note before engaging an agency worker, please consider using the services of myJobshop to fulfil the vacancy. This service offers departments access to a pool of ‘ready to work’ students for short notice work, whilst providing valuable student employment opportunities.

Due to the need to manage agency costs more effectively and as part of our response to support our compliance with the Agency Worker Regulations (effective from 1st October 2011), the University has created a Framework Agreement covering the provision of the following support roles:

  • Administration
  • Clerical
  • Portering
  • Security, and
  • Cleaning services

The approved Agency Providers are:

As such, only these providers can be used for the above roles. Requests to use another, other than for specialist activity, will be blocked via the procurement process.

Please see Guidance for managers for further information.

Having viewed the information and guidance on these pages, should you have any queries please contact your Faculty HR Team Contact.

Information for agency workers

Information for agency workers

  1. Welcome to the University of Sheffield
  2. Conduct
  3. Terms and conditions
  4. Addressing any concerns or queries
  5. Provisions from day one of your engagement
  6. Pregnant workers and new mother provisions