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AWR & CR: What’s the Difference? (And Why It’s Important That You Know)

AWR & CR: What’s the Difference? (And Why It’s Important That You Know)

by on June 23, 2023

There are many abbreviations and acronyms in the world of umbrella companies, some of which can be confusing. Here at Payme we try to keep the jargon to a minimum, but occasionally you might have seen the phrases Agency Workers’ Regulations and Conduct Regulations abbreviated to AWRs and CWRs. These are a vital part of a contractor’s rights as an employee and it’s important that recruitment agents and end-clients understand them too. Here we look at what they are and how they apply to you.


What are Agency Workers’ Regulations?

The AWRs came into effect in 2011 and gave agency workers (contractors) the entitlement to the same basic employment rights and working conditions as if they’d applied directly for the job, rather than going through a recruitment agency. These rights apply after one working week in the same role. This means that contractors are able to access any facilities that an employer has, such as a canteen or childcare facilities, as well as being able to apply for internal vacancies.

After a 12 week qualifying period contractors are also entitled to equal pay and other basic working conditions such as annual leave entitlement and the same rest breaks as permanent employees. Pregnant employees are also able to take paid time off for ante-natal appointments while on assignment. 


What this means:

For end-clients – it’s your responsibility to provide the agency you find your contractors through with up-to-date information on your terms and conditions so that they can ensure that the contractor receives the same treatment as your permanent employees. You must also make sure that contractors have access to your facilities, as well as being able to apply for any jobs that become available during their assignment.

If you’re a recruitment agent – it’s your responsibility to ask the end-client about your contractors’ pay and working conditions so that you can pass this information on, as if they were a permanent employee.

If you’re a contractor – even if you only work on a part-time basis, your right to access equal pay and conditions will begin after your 12-week qualifying period. This qualifying period is likely to be based on your previous work history – your recruitment agent will tell you more. 

The AWRs enshrine a contractor’s rights in law and no one is allowed to opt out of any of the stipulations. If you are using an umbrella company you are considered to be inside the scope of the AWRs.


What are the Conduct Regulations?

The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (Conduct Regulations) [CRs] were first introduced in April 2004 and were most recently updated in 2020. They specify the minimum standards that the UK recruitment industry must adhere to and provide protection for people seeking either temporary or permanent employment. They cover both Employment Agencies (companies which find work for people who are employed and paid by the end client) and Employment Businesses (companies which engage a contractor and pay them directly – instead of them being paid by the end-client). 

There are strict rules in place about how recruiters must behave. For instance, they cannot:

  • Charge a contractor a fee for finding them work

  • Insist on training courses for the contractor for which they must pay

  • Stop a contractor from working for another employer, or penalise them if they do

  • Withhold wages from a contractor

  • Make any unlawful deductions from their wages


In contrast, there are things that they must do, including:

  • Pay the contractor for all the work they do

  • Ensure that they are paid for any holidays

  • Ensure that they’re paid at least the National Minimum Wage

  • Offer them a Key Information Document (KID) 

  • Ensure that they are not forced to work more than 48 hours per week

  • Ensure that they are protected under any Health and Safety legislation


The ‘Opt Out’ Clause

If you’re a contractor whose work is ‘controlled’ you are free to choose to opt out of the CRs, otherwise you are automatically considered to be within their scope. You can learn more about Supervision, Direction or Control (SDC) here. An agency might encourage you to opt out in order to prevent you from working directly for the client after your assignment finishes. However, if you choose to opt out you must do so before you are introduced to any client or the CRs will apply. You should also bear in mind that if you do opt out it might have an effect on your IR35 status. 

Employment legislation such as the AWRs and the CRs is in place to protect workers from unscrupulous recruitment agencies and employers alike. At Payme we’re committed not only to providing the best possible services for contractors and the agencies that we partner with but also to work within the letter and the spirit of the law. That’s why we have policies and procedures in place to safeguard our contractors, the agencies that find them work and the end-clients that they work for. You can see more of how we work compliantly and fairly here

If you have any questions about any of our policies or practices and would like to discuss them with one of our knowledgeable advisors, you can call us on 0333 200 0845, email us at, or fill in the contact form here.