Can an agency worker claim injury compensation?

When a temporary worker, or agency worker, is injured in a workplace accident, they may wonder if they have the same right to claim compensation as a regular, contracted employee.

In simple terms, the answer is "yes." Agency workers can make a claim as long as they can show that their injuries were caused by the employer's negligence.

Employer's duty of care toward agency workers

As a result of a large body of laws and regulations, including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for their employees and to train staff to work safely. They must also provide staff with protective clothing and equipment where necessary and adhere to certain health and safety standards.

This duty is owed to all employees regardless of whether they work on a full or part-time basis, or whether they are contracted through a third-party agency.

If the employer breaches their duty of care and a worker in injured, then that individual will have the right to pursue a personal injury claim. In most cases, it makes no difference whether the injured person has a permanent employment contract or are working through a staffing agency.

Who is responsible for an agency worker's injury?

Often, the agency worker will take instructions from the company that provides the work and pays the agency for the worker's services.

The employer will usually own and/or operate the place of work, provide the work equipment and determine how the work is carried out.

For example, if you are a temp in an office, and sustain a manual handling injury when asked to lift heavy boxes, it is the owners or operators of the office who are likely to be liable for your injury. If you need to make a slip or trip work compensation claim following an accident when temping in a shop, it is the retail business against whom a claim would likely be made.

If an accident occurs in these circumstances, then a claim may be brought against the ultimate employer rather than the agency. That is because the employer owns or controls the workplace and the work process.