Employment Agency Inspectorate

The Employment Agency Inspectorate (EAI) of the Department for the Economy (DfE) is responsible for the regulation of the Northern Ireland private recruitment sector.

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 1981 Order provides the Department with the power to make legislation to regulate the private recruitment sector and was amended in 2006 and 2010.

The Conduct Regulations were brought into operation by the Department in 2005 and were amended in 2008 and 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.

Work-seekers can find more guidance around agency work on the nidirect website.  

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.

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)

Other complaints

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.

Prohibited Agents

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.

Prohibited agents - Table 1
Name of prohibited agent Name of agency Sector Prohibited from Prohibited until
Glyn Davies Formerly t/a 'Lothian Variety' and 'Emkay Lothian Entertainments' (Lothian Scotland) Entertainers/Models 13/06/11 12/12/20
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.

Permitted Agents subject to conditions - Table 2
Name of prohibited agent Sector Conditions apply from  Conditions apply until  
Susan Davies Entertainers/Models 13/06/11 12/12/20  
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 website.

Other Information

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.


Related to Employment Agency Inspectorate

Access to information

How to request information from the Department for the Economy including Freedom of Information (FOI) and the use of our Publication Scheme.

Most recent consultations

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