Legal rights during recruitment
Job seekers often complain about feeling powerless during the recruitment process. While to a certain degree this is understandable, it is important to remember that you have a number of legal rights.
Recruitment fees and other charges
Employers and employment agencies are not allowed to make you use fee-paying services (e.g., CV writing, training courses, or transport) as a requirement for finding you work.
They are also forbidden from charging you fees for seeking to find or actually finding you work (although certain exceptions apply to agencies operating in the entertainment and modelling industries, and in certain cases au pairs or if you are a self-employed work-seeker providing your services through a limited company).
If an employer or employment agency does provide services that may be charged for they must give you full written details of their services, which set out your rights to cancel or withdraw at any time without suffering any penalty, together with the length of the notice period you must give (NB. to cancel living accommodation, an agency may require you give 10 working days written notice; and five days notice for all other services).
Privacy and personal data issues
Prospective employers and employment agencies owe you a duty of confidentiality, which means they are not allowed to disclose information about you to third parties (other than for the purpose of finding work, for legal proceedings or to any professional body of which you are a member) or to a current employer, without your consent.
A prospective employer or an employment agency may request information, however, to confirm your identity, experience, training, qualifications or immigration status, and you may be asked to provide documentation such as your birth certificate or passport, for this purpose.
If you are looking for temporary work, the recruiter must:
(1) provide full written details of a job when they offer you a position with a hirer, including:
- the identity of the hirer;
- start date;
- likely duration of the work;
- type of work;
- any risks to health and safety and steps the hirer has taken to control such risks;
- training and qualifications needed for the role;
- any expenses payable;
- the actual rate of pay;
- the intervals of payment;
- length of notice, if any; and
- details of any paid holiday (NB. any subsequent variations must be notified to you in writing);
(2) pay you for work that you have done, even if it’s an agency and they haven’t been paid by the hirer (although certain exceptions apply to agencies operating in the entertainment and modelling industries);
(3) not prevent or restrict you from taking up employment directly with a hirer.
Protection under health and safety laws
Employers and employment agencies have a number of obligations with respect to health and safety. Regardless of whether you’re employed, contracting, or seeking employment, the risks to your health and safety must be properly controlled and monitored.
The National Minimum Wage
Employers often mistakenly believe there is a ‘grey area’ around recruitment in the national minimum wage legislation that allows them to take on applicants in ‘voluntary’ or ‘trial’ positions -- but this is simply not the case. The law stipulates that anyone undertaking work-related tasks, who has set hours and a duty to turn up for work most likely qualifies as a ‘worker’ under UK employment law, and should be paid the minimum wage.
As of October 2010, anyone deemed a worker aged over 21 should be paid £5.93 per hour. The rate for workers aged 18 to 20 is £4.92 an hour and for workers aged 16 to 17 it is £3.64 an hour. Apprentices aged under 19 and those in the first year of their apprenticeship are also eligible for a minimum wage of £2.50 an hour.
When in doubt about the level of pay you’re entitled to, call the government Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368 for free and confidential advice.
Protection from unlawful discrimination
It is unlawful to discriminate against a person during recruitment on the following grounds:
- gender reassignment;
- marriage and civil partnership;
- pregnancy and maternity;
- race, caste, ethnicity, national origin or skin colour;
- religion or belief;
- sexual orientation;
- trade union membership or activities.
To learn more about the law in this area, read the following article:
- Employment law rights centre (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Employment law Q&A (Community)
- Find a solicitor (Contact Law)
- Equality and Human Rights Commission
- Health and Safety Executive
- Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC is the main trade association representing the private recruitment industry, and member agencies have to abide by their Code of Practice)
- TUC Worksmart