The weekly countdown to Christmas is already underway, and with it comes the annual headache of planning the staff Christmas party. With the AWR in force, hirers want to know whether or not they will have to hand out invitations to their agency workers.
Under the AWR agency workers are granted equal access to collective facilities and amenities at the hirer’s establishment. What is or isn’t a collective facility for these purposes is the subject of some debate. The general consensus is that facilities such as the staff canteen or transport services to and from the hirer site are included, but does the right to collective facilities extend as far as allowing agency workers access to the annual Christmas bash?
As a Christmas party is not a collective facility or amenity, attendance would only be permitted by the AWR if directly engaged staff were also allowed to wander onto the establishment during those hours without invitation. In such a case, the right to equal treatment would only extend to access to the party location itself, as opposed to allowing agency workers to partake in any free food or drink – a cost saving argument, but hardly very Christmassy.
To avoid an awkward situation, and a room full of uninvited and disgruntled guests, the hirer may refuse access if they can objectively justify their reasons, for example if they have limited facilities or resources, or want to reward long-serving employees with whom they have an ongoing relationship.
Parties held offsite in a local hotel will not be considered collective facilities, and therefore agency workers will not be able to demand an invite to the celebrations.
Further confusion may arise over Christmas bonuses. Agency workers are now entitled to the same terms and conditions relating to pay after 12 weeks as they would have received had they been directly engaged by a hirer. Under the AWR, pay includes bonuses linked to the quality or quantity of work done by the agency worker. However incentives such as a Christmas bonus that is not directly attributable to the quality or quantity of work done, or which consists of a distribution of a share of profits, are not included.
In any event, if bonuses are paid out before 24th December, the hirer can rest assured that there will be no claims to entitlement this Christmas.