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Will I get enough hours if I work for an agency?

When I speak to people about working for Ocala Healthcare, one of the common questions I get is will I get enough hours working for an agency?

Before starting Ocala Healthcare, I was an agency carer for 3 years. I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. In this article I will give you the facts on agency contracts, your rights, and what worked for me to ensure I got all the benefits of flexibility that agency work has to offer, whilst also getting the hours I needed.

How do zero-hour contracts work?

A zero-hour contract is as simple an employment contract as you can possibly have. You are not obligated to do any work, your employer is not obligated to offer you work.

It really is as simple as that.

In addition to this, it is also illegal to have exclusivity clauses in a zero-hour contract. Notice periods are also irrelevant within a zero-hour contract, as there is no obligation on either side.

How are zero-hour contracts mis-used?

Zero-hour contracts are misused in a wide variety of ways, but I will name just a few of the very common ones that we come across every week.

Exclusivity Clause – We often come across agency carers that are told they cannot work for other agencies due to an exclusivity contract. As mentioned above, this is illegal as you could be left vulnerable to having no work.

Notice Period – I have come across instances where carers are told they must work a month or even three month notice period. This is absolutely not the case, under the zero-hour contract you could drop all with immediate effect. This is one of the benefits of not being guaranteed hours every week.

Booked for work without asking, then dismissed – Much more regular than many would realise. Agency workers being booked for work to secure a shift. Agency worker isn’t able to do it, doesn’t go and is then dismissed.

Being told when you work, without the option to turn down – This is also very common. As an agency worker availability changes, sometimes you want to take the afternoon to go and see your friend. Only to be told you’ve been booked into work and it will be a disciplinary if you turn it down.

If you experience any of the above, then I would suggest you start looking at other options immediately. There are many fantastic agencies out there, that understand what agency work is meant to be.

Find an agency that understands that agency workers trade the benefit of guaranteed hours for the benefit of the flexibility to work when they want, and arguably more important, to not work when they do not want.

How do I know if agencies have work available?

So now you know how a zero-hour contract is supposed to work, and what to look for to avoid working with agencies that would misuse the contract for their own benefit.

Having the flexibility to work where and when you want is important when working for an agency. But so is having the work available to you when you want it!

In my experience there are a few key questions you could ask, and indicators that would tell you if agencies have work available for you to know that you will comfortably have enough work for you on a weekly basis.

1. Google their name and look at there google reviews. Nothing will tell you more about a business than what other people say about them.

2. If you know employees of the business, ask them what their experience has been with having work available.

3. Speak to the agency directly. If you are looking for 30 hours a week, ask them “how confident are you that I will work at least 30 hours each week?” Be wary of any guarantees you are given, as you know from above, nothing it guaranteed in a zero-hour contact. But if they can give you some examples of people that they currently work with who regularly achieve similar hours on a weekly basis and can show you this in a review or putting you in contact with those examples, then you can take confidence in that.

4. Check out their social media. There are often clues to be found all over this with how people interact with them.

Ultimately by doing your research online and asking the agency the direct question you will have a good idea about whether they are able to give you enough work on a weekly basis.

What can I do to make sure I get enough work on a zero-hour contract?

As much as it should not be it often seemed to me that those that shouted the loudest where the ones to get the work first. I am not advising that you call your agency and shout at them, that isn’t likely to do your working relationship any good!

What I am suggesting is calling your agency every week, telling them how many hours you have, how many hours you need and your availability for other work. This will naturally put you to the front of their mind when shifts are coming in.

At Ocala Healthcare, we want our team to be doing this as we work on your behalf. When we know you are available, we will actively find you work for that time.

Another thing you can do to take control of your own work when working for agencies is to direct book shifts with clients that you go to regularly. Before you leave a shift, tell the manager you enjoyed working there and ask if they have any other shifts available. Tell them which ones you can do and call your agency to let them know about them.

The trick is to be a proactive, enthusiastic, and competent member of the team, with a smile on your face. If you do that, every home you go to will want you back as often as possible. You will work as much as you want, and more importantly when you want.

If you are interested in working with Ocala Healthcare, give us a call on 01473 378100 or email adam@ocalahealthcare.co.uk.

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