Legislation and enforcement
Employment agencies and employment businesses in Northern Ireland must comply with the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (‘the 1981 Order’) and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005 (‘the Conduct Regulations’). The legislation exists to protect work seekers and employers using such agencies and businesses.
The The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 provides the Department with the power to make legislation to regulate the private recruitment sector and was amended in 2006 with The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 and 2010 with Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2010.
The Conduct Regulations (Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005) were brought into operation by the Department in 2005 and were amended in 2008 (The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008) and 2010 (The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010).
EAI inspectors can enter and inspect the premises and records of all employment agencies and businesses in NI to ensure compliance with the 1981 Order and the Conduct Regulations. You can find out more about the role of the EAI in the EAI Enforcement Policy.
The EAI has produced guidance on the Conduct Regulations for work-seekers, hirers and agencies.
- Guidance on the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005
- Review of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005
Work-seekers can find more guidance around agency work on nidirect Agency workers.
Hirers and agencies can find more guidance around agency work on the nibusinessinfo.co.uk website.
The EAI can only investigate certain types of complaints or activities that are specified in the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 or the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005. It can also only investigate complaints against Agencies/Businesses that are located in Northern Ireland.
The types of complaint we will investigate, for example, are:
If you are a work-seeker:
- have you been charged by an employment agency to find you work?
- has your employment agency failed to agree terms with you?
- have you applied for a job, only to be told that it doesn't exist?
- have you had your details forwarded to an employer without your knowledge?
- have you been forced to pay for any of the agency’s other services before the agency will take you on their books?
If you are an employer:
- has an employment agency not agreed terms with you?
- have you found an agency advertising one of your vacancies without your consent?
If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’ and you wish to make a complaint, you can contact the EAI.
Agency complaints in England, Scotland and Wales
If you have an agency-related complaint and you live in England, Scotland or Wales, see Pay and Work Rights (Gov.uk website)
If your complaint is not related to any of the examples listed above, there are other government bodies which are responsible for the enforcement of other workplace rights in NI.
Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority works in partnership to protect vulnerable and exploited workers. It is responsible for regulating employment agencies, labour providers and gangmasters who provide workers to the agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and any associated processing and packaging sectors
HM Revenue and Customs
HM Revenue and Customs is responsible for the enforcement of National Minimum Wage requirements and ensuring that workers and employees are paid appropriately.
The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) is the body responsible for monitoring and inspecting the availability and quality of health and social care services in Northern Ireland.
The EAI has powers to prosecute or apply to prohibit non-compliant agents.
Table 1 lists agents who are currently prohibited by the EAI from running, or being involved in the running of, an employment agency or business in Northern Ireland.
|Name of prohibited agent||Name of agency||Sector||Prohibited from||Prohibited until|
|Mark Butler (McCrory)*||Universal Artists||Actors/Entertainers||06/07/17||05/07/27|
Table 2 lists agents permitted to run or to be involved in running an employment agency or employment business in Northern Ireland subject to certain conditions being met. Details of those conditions can be requested by contacting the EAI.
|Name of prohibited agent||Sector||Conditions apply from||Conditions apply until|
|Alison/Alexandra (Allie) Ford*||Actors/Entertainers||06/07/17||05/07/27|
*Further details regarding the action taken against Mark Butler (McCrory) and Alison/Alexandra (Allie) Ford can be found on the DfE news release.
The EAI has produced an information leaflet aimed at agency workers, with translations into eight minority languages.
You can find out more about the service standards you can expect to receive from the EAI.
The Department has agreed a Code of Conduct for agencies advertising on online job boards.
The Department commissioned research in 2009 into the size and nature of the private recruitment sector in NI - see The private recruitment sector in Northern Ireland report .
If you wish to make a complaint about an employment agency/business in Northern Ireland only you can contact the EAI: