Recruitment Agency Contracts: Tips for Job Seekers
How Recruitment Agencies Work
Recruitment agencies are in the business of finding people for jobs. Not jobs for people. It's a subtle but important distinction. Their client is the employer who pays them a commission for finding candidates to fill specific roles. So, a recruitment agent can only ever recruit for specific positions: they are looking for the right candidate for a particular job description.
To successfully satisfy their clients a recruitment agency needs a large pool of candidates at its disposal. That's where you come in. By registering with an agency your details then become part of their database of applicants they can search through when they have a position to fill.
Signing up With a Recruitment Agency
Any respectable recruitment agency will want to interview you before putting you in their database. The interview and your CV are your opportunity to sell yourself to the recruitment agent. If you are applying for a specific position they have advertised, then it's up to you to show why your are the right person for the job. If you're signing up without a particular position in mind then it's your chance to make a positive impression and give the recruitment agent good reason to remember you when a position becomes available.
Most job seekers using recruitment agencies will sign on with several agencies. No one agency has access to all vacancies so by registering with multiple agencies you improve your chances of being put forward for a suitable job.
You may come across a recruitment agent who wants to be your sole representative. If they're absolutely the best in your sector then you may want to consider it. It's quite common to sign up with more than one agency. if you can, focus on agencies that specialise in recruitment for your employment sector.
Terms and Conditions in a Recruitment Agency Contract
However many agencies you decide to go with, each one should present you with a recruitment agency contract to sign. The agreement will set out their terms and conditions and once signed forms a legally binding contract between you and the agency.
The kind of things you can expect to see cover in the recruitment agency contract include:
- definitions of any legal terms used in the contract e.g. Agent, Client, Applicant, Offer of Representation
- a statement that the agency is operating within the Employment Agencies Act 1973 (the main body of legislation which regulates employment agencies)
- your obligations as an applicant e.g. provide proof of identity, details of work being sought and work experience, forward details of any offers of employment that arise from introductions made by the agency
- obligations of the agent e.g. the agent will behave professionally and lawfully, will use reasonable endeavours to find employment for you but is not obliged to find you a job
- the duration of the representation i.e. how long you've signed up to be on the recruitment agency's books
- how to terminate the contract i.e. how much notice (usually written) that either party has to give the other to end the agreement
- a statement of who is the employer i.e. agency or temp workers work for the employment agency (but are not technically "employees"), for permanent positions the client offering you a job will become your employer.
For temp or agency workers, the recruitment agency contract will also include conditions of employment such as:
- the worker's obligation to provide time sheets signed by the client, each week
- payment of fees to the worker
- sick pay.
The actual hourly rate and numbers of hours worked may differ from assignment to assignment, so the terms and conditions are unlikely to set out an hourly rate or number of hours work per week. There should still, however, be a commitment on part of the agency to pay the agreed fees, in a timely fashion, regardless of whether or not the client has paid the agency.
You should expect be told the hourly rate and working hours of any assignment offered you.
Recruitment Agency Fees and Services
A recruitment agency cannot charge you a fee for finding you work. They can, however, charge you for services they may offer such as:
- CV writing
- transport and accommodation.
None of their services can be a condition of finding you a job and you must be provided with full details of the charges. Charges such as those listed above are more likely to apply to agency or temp workers than to applicants seeking permanent position.
Slightly different rules apply in the modelling and entertainment industries, where the candidate can be charged certain fees.