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How long ago did you cease working for the agency? Also, is there anything in the contract you had with them that would suggest any such restriction?
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Many thanks for your patience. Employment agencies have traditionally been eager to protect the revenue they get from supplying temporary workers to end user clients. They normally do so by including certain "restrictive covenants" or clauses within their contracts to either prevent a contractor from taking up direct employment with an end user, usually for the duration of the contract plus an extended period after termination, or which imposes a substantial fee if they do. The civil courts have on many occasions deliberated whether such "restrictive covenants" are fair and reasonable and there is still no single definitive answer.
Under UK and EU legislation there have been attempts to allow workers to seek employment wherever they choose, without restriction, thus removing any restraint of trade prohibitions. The most relevant piece of legislation in this respect is Regulation 10 of The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003.
Where a temporary contract between an agency and an end user contains provisions to charge fees in a situation where the worker is taken on by the end user, it must now also provide the option of an "extended period of hire" where the end user client continues to pay the agency margin while engaging the worker directly (or through another agency).
Where there are provisions for the payment of a fee and/or an extended hire period, the Regulations state that they are unenforceable beyond 8 weeks from the termination of the contract (or, if longer, 14 weeks from the start of the contract).
So effectively this creates a situation where an end user client who wishes to employ a contractor directly (or transfer the contractor to another agency) AND where there is a contract preventing the hiring of the agency worker by the end user, will have 3 options:
1. Pay the transfer fee stipulated in the contract.
2. Pay the extended hire fee stipulated in the contract.
3. Terminate the contract (presumably with due notice) and wait for the specified 8 or 14 week period to end.
If no restrictions existed in any contract then you are free to do as you wish and work for whoever you want.
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