Guidance for members
How to respond to a complaint made against your agency.
If you're thinking of making a complaint against an REC member, or if you’re an agency that has had a complaint made against you - read this guide before contacting the REC.
In particular, take a look at our guidance about complaints we cannot deal with.
The following areas are outside the remit of the REC’s Complaints and Disciplinary Procedure:
The REC Code of Professional Practice is the standard to which we expect our members to work to, and against which we can pursue complaints under our Complaints and Disciplinary procedures.
The practice of ‘poaching’ or attempting to poach employees from other agencies is not uncommon and gives rise to quite a number of complaints. However, any action on our part to formally prohibit this could be seen as a restriction on employees’ free movement of labour. The REC has considered this issue many times in the past and has sought to find a balance in our position from a professional standards perspective.
Essentially, our position on this is that, in itself, there is no immediate breach of our standards in such activity; however, where a breach of our Code may arise, would be where a recipient of such contact objected to being contacted, or to their employees being contacted on ‘company time’ and made a request to the agency carrying out this activity to cease to do so. We would expect an REC member to honour such a request out of professional courtesy, and any failure to do so may be considered a potential breach of our Code.
Our advice would be that you should contact the agency directly and request that they cease to carry out such contact and if you then have any concerns about any failure to comply with your request, you could at that stage submit a complaint to us for further action.
In addition, if an individual (i.e. in their capacity as an individual rather than as a representative of a company) felt that they had been the subject of direct marketing tactics from a business they had no previous customer relationship with and had not given prior consent to such contact, they may have reason to complain on their own behalf, as a matter of that agency’s compliance with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. The Office of the Information Commissioner deals with these issues.
The REC Code of Professional Practice is the standard to which we expect our members to work to, and against which we can pursue complaints under our complaints and disciplinary procedures. The Code of Practice does not govern commercial or competitive practice but focuses specifically on the services provided by members to candidates, temporary workers and clients.
The practice of ‘poaching’ or attempting to poach temporary workers from other agencies is not uncommon and gives rise to quite a number of complaints. However, any action on our part to formally prohibit this could be seen as a restriction on an individual’s free movement of labour. The REC has considered this issue many times in the past and has sought to find a balance in our position from a professional standards perspective.
Essentially, our position on this is that, in itself, there is no immediate breach of our standards in such activity; however, where a breach of our Code may arise, would be (a) where a recipient of such contact objected to being contacted, or (b) where there is a concern as to how a Temporary Worker’s details were obtained.
For (a) our advice would be that the first step would be for the temporary worker to contact the agency directly and request that they cease to carry out such contact, or with their permission, you may do this on their behalf. We would expect a REC member to honour such a request out of professional courtesy, and if you, or the temporary worker has any concerns about any failure to comply with this request, it is at this stage that a complaint could be submitted to the REC.
For (b) there are two options, which you may wish to consider.
Option 1. The Temporary Worker can contact the REC to make a complaint.
Option 2. With the express permission of the Temporary Worker you can make a complaint on their behalf.
We may be able to take this forward a complaint of this nature without the Temporary Worker’s involvement, but this may affect how detailed we could reasonably expect a member agency to be in their response.
There are three options, which you may wish to consider:
Option 1. Work seekers can contact the REC direct and make their own complaint.
Option 2. If you are a recruitment agency yourself then with the express permission of the work seeker you can make a complaint on their behalf.
Option 3. If you wish to make a complaint and remain anonymous you should refer the matter to the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS) who have authority to investigate complaints on an anonymous basis.
We may be able to take forward a complaint of this nature without a candidate’s involvement, but this may affect how detailed we could reasonably expect a member agency to be in their response.
The nature of temporary work means that there is no obligation on behalf of an agency to provide work and similarly, there is no obligation on behalf of the temporary worker to accept work. Therefore, if this were your sole concern this would not be a matter that we could take forward for you under our Complaints Procedure.
However, we would investigate any complaint made where a complainant feels there has been a lack of clear communication about the services provided between an Employment Business and a Temporary Worker. If you feel this relates to your query then you would need to provide specific details and any relevant evidence.
You may also consider that there may be other reasons for this situation that relate to our Code of Professional Practice, if this is the case then please provide specific details and any relevant evidence.
Please refer to Member Guidance for help. In addition you may contact the Complaints Officer who is handling your case for guidance on making your response.
If you haven’t done so already we would encourage you to take your complaint direct to the agency, setting out in writing what pay you think you are owed. If the agency does not respond then we would suggest that you write to us. Please note that for recovery of unpaid wages or deductions, the time limit for taking action through an Employment Tribunal is 3 months from the date of the last deduction or failure to pay.
As a non-statutory body the REC can only investigate REC members and these investigations are focussed on breaches of the REC’s Code of Professional Practice. As such the REC’s complaints procedure cannot be used as a substitute for legal action. This includes action to claim any money owed due to non-payment of wages or holiday pay or unlawful deductions.
Whilst we would make every effort to obtain resolution of your complaint and in the majority of cases complaints such as yours are resolved through our involvement, we would not be able to enforce payment if the agency were to dispute your claim.
Therefore you may want to consider seeking independent legal advice or to contact one of the following organisations:
ACAS (08457 474747)
Citizen’s Advice Bureau
However, we would investigate any complaint made where a complainant believes that they have not been paid in accordance with their terms of engagement.
Agencies are, increasingly, obliged by law and good practice to ensure they have carried out certain checks on work seekers they send to employers, particularly where supplying workers for temporary assignments. The information an agency asked for is likely to be part of fulfilling these obligations, which can include checking your identity, qualifications that are necessary for the job, and your eligibility to work in the UK. The confidentiality of personal information is governed by our Code of Practice and also by the Data Protection Act 1998.
Our Code requires that our members observe the confidentiality of both candidates and clients to whom they are providing services. The REC’s remit for an investigation would focus purely on this aspect of our Code of Practice and as such we would be unable to make any legal findings.
The Data Protection Act 1998 provides for the regulation of the processing of information relating to individuals. The Act covers applicants for temporary and permanent vacancies, clients who are individuals or partnerships (but not limited companies) and details of potential client individuals or candidates who are held on a marketing database. Once registered with an Agency, they must not disclose any information relating to you without your prior consent except in the following circumstances:
i) For the purposes of providing work finding services to you;
ii) For the purposes of any legal proceedings;
iii) To a professional body of which you are a member of.
Where you have not registered with an agency, they may retain personal information you may have provided, but again, this may only be stored with your permission and the agency must specify the period of time that they will hold this information, and they may only use it for direct marketing purposes, and as a work seeker, they must not disclose it to potential employers without your prior permission.
The Information Commissioner oversees the Data Protection Act 1998. Contact:
The Information Commissioners Office
Telephone: 01625 545 745
Temporary Workers may of course work for whomever they chose, however, you should be aware that if you register with another employment agency and this results in a transfer of ‘employment’ within the same assignment, then the original employment agency has the right to charge a fee to the client or extend the period of the assignment before you would be able to take up work directly with the new employment agency within the same assignment without the client incurring any charges. The agency’s Terms of Business with the client should have clauses that relate to this issue.
Therefore we would advise you to raise this issue with the client directly as it will ultimately be their decision as to whether they are willing to incur any additional charges in relation to the assignment and the agency which supplies you.
An Employment Business or a Client may terminate the Temporary Worker’s Assignment at any time without prior notice or liability. In addition, a Temporary Worker may terminate an Assignment at any time without prior notice or liability. However, the Terms of Engagement may contain a notice period, which was agreed at the outset.
Therefore, in relation to your query, you may find it useful to revisit your Terms of Engagement (Contract for Services) with the agency in question. A Contract for Services for Temporary Workers defines the terms under which an Employment Business can terminate a Temporary Worker assignment, which should include details under which an assignment can be terminated.
Our remit for intervening would focus on working practice issues, such as ensuring that an agency has provided clear and accurate written Terms of Engagement for temporary/contract workers.
As of 1st April 2009, under the Working Time Regulations 1998, a Temporary Worker is entitled to28 days paid (5.6 weeks) leave per leave year, pro rata where appropriate, therefore entitlement to payment for leave accrues in proportion to the amount of time worked continuously by the Temporary Worker on assignment during the leave year. This entitlement may include Bank Holidays and other Public Holidays.
A temporary worker accrues entitlement to holiday pay during an assignment, to be paid at the time leave is taken. Details of your paid leave entitlement should be set out in your Terms of Engagement (Contract for Services,) which you should have read and agreed upon registration or prior to accepting your assignment with the agency.
We may be able to assist if there are concerns about the agency’s working practices, such as ensuring that you have been provided with clear and accurate written terms of engagement for temporary/contract workers, including providing you with details of your entitlement to paid annual leave. We cannot enforce payment in the event of a dispute over unpaid wages.
The Code of Professional Practice does not cover contractual or commercial matters and does not deal with disputes of this nature. Firstly, we would advise that you refer to the Terms of Business with the agency as this may help to clarify matters and if you are still unsure, we would advise that you consider taking legal advice from your company solicitors or an independent legal advisor. Please note that the REC is unable to act as a mediator in any dispute of this nature.
The REC Code of Professional Practice requires that a member agency provide a written Terms of Business to a client at the outset of your business relationship. You should ensure that you fully read and understand these Terms before making any arrangements with the agency, as this document sets out the Terms and Conditions that you are entering into. Any queries in relation to the Terms of Business should be raised directly with the agency at this stage and prior to making any arrangements with the agency.
The following is a simple checklist of areas you should note within a Terms of Business:
The aims of a formal complaints investigation are to determine whether a breach of our Codes has taken place and to improve standards of practice in the recruitment industry. If, having considered all the evidence, the Complaints Officer considers that there has been a breach of one of our Codes, the Member will be required to provide evidence of improvements made and written reassurances regarding future working practices. Therefore, complaints can often provide a useful means of maintaining and improving standards within the recruitment industry and we are grateful for relevant matters to be brought to our attention.
We are unable to obtain compensation or redress through our processes as we focus on improvements in professional practice.
The Professional Standards Committee meets quarterly and will consider complaints against members, which cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant and/or member, or where disciplinary action appears to be appropriate. Persistent or serious breaches of the requirements of the Code can lead to disciplinary action or expulsion from the REC.
We are unable to investigate the conduct of agencies or individuals that are not REC members.
If you have a complaint regarding a non-member you may wish to contact the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS) at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). EAS has statutory authority over all recruitment agencies. Contact:
Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate
Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
1 Victoria Street
Telephone: 0800 917 2368
Look out for the REC logo on the agency’s correspondence, website, advertising or other promotional material. You can also check membership status in the Member Directory. In addition, the Customer Contact team can carry out a check for you via our database.
Member agencies are required to have in place their own written complaints procedure and therefore, we would suggest that in the first instance you raise your complaint directly with the agency via their own procedure. We would expect a member agency to respond to and deal with your complaint but if this is not the case or you feel that you have not received a satisfactory response, then the complaint may be referred to the REC.
A complaint can be made to the REC regarding a member agency’s conduct by a temporary worker/candidate, client, another recruitment agency (REC member or non-member) or any other member of the public.
The REC does not accept verbal complaints and therefore, if you do wish to make a complaint you will need to put this in writing. Please complete the complaint form on this site and send this to us either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to: Customer Contact Team, REC, 1st Floor, Dorset House, 27-45 Stamford Street, London, SE1 9NT.
In order to help us help you with your complaint, please consider the following points when making your written complaint:
Complaints against Professional members follow a slightly different assessment process. Please contact us for further information.
We do appreciate courtesy to our staff whilst we are trying to help you with your complaint. Please do note that any language or behaviour, which our staff consider to be offensive or of a harassing nature may result in any complaints investigation being suspended.
When the Consultancy & Compliance team receives a complaint it is reviewed by an Assessor. The REC has a Code of Professional Practice that sets the standards to which we expect all our Corporate Members to adhere and a Code of Ethics for all Individual Members of the Institutute of Recruitment Professionals to adhere to. Any allegation of a breach of these Codes can be investigated under our Complaints and Disciplinary Procedure. Therefore, the Assessor will consider the details of your complaint and assess whether or not your complaint does raise any issues relating to the Codes. If the Assessor considers that this is the case, we will write to you to advise how we will proceed. This can be to advise you to write directly to the agency, offer to forward your complaint to the agency or for a formal investigation to be undertaken. We will ask for your permission to forward a copy of your written complaint to the Member (we will not tell the Member about your complaint unless you give us permission to do so).
Once we have received your permission, we will forward a copy of your complaint to the agency and ask them to investigate the matters complained of and the agency will either write directly to you, or, in the case of a formal investigation, provide a written response to the REC. Please note that all stages of the Complaints Procedure require correspondence in writing as this enables us to exchange information between complainant and agency (all responses will be forwarded to the other party) and to operate our Complaints Procedure as fairly and promptly as possible. The process is slightly different for complaints regarding REC Professional members.
Finally, if the Complaints Officer considers that your complaint is not within our remit, we will write to you to inform you of this and provide details of any other sources of advice/guidance wherever possible.
Firstly, we will acknowledge receipt of your written complaint by email or letter so that you know that we have received it. Our acknowledgement email/letter will give you a timescale as to when you can expect to hear further from us and this timescale will generally be within 15 working days. It is difficult to provide an actual timescale within which the overall process will be complete as this is dependent on a number of factors, such as, the nature of the complaint and the speed of any further responses from all parties concerned. As a general guide, we usually ask for all further responses to be provided to us within 10 working days.
There is no legal obligation for an agency to offer a refund. Where a refund is offered there is no regulation as to how this should be calculated. You should ensure that, as referred to above, you fully understand the Terms you are entering into prior to making any arrangements with the agency.
Whilst we would expect any REC member to act within the agreed terms, resolving contractual disputes and enforcing payments or refunds are outside our authority to instruct members’ actions. Our ability to intervene would normally focus on working practices, such as ensuring that terms had been communicated clearly and agreed at the outset. Therefore, in relation to your query you may find it useful to revisit your Terms of Business with the agency in question.
We would investigate any complaint made where there was an allegation of a breach of the REC’s Code of Professional Practice, specifically where the requirement to clearly communicate the Terms of Business had not been met.
The REC Code of Professional Practice regulates the business relationship between an agency, its temporary workers, candidates and clients. It does not govern the relationship between an agency and its current or former employees (i.e. members of staff who work/have worked at the agency), as this relationship is covered in law by your contract of employment and general employment law.
Therefore, we are unable to investigate matters of this nature as they fall outside the remit of the Code of Practice. However, we can suggest the following sources of information in respect of employment rights, which may of help to you:
ACAS (08457 474747)
Employment Tribunals (0845 795 9775)
Citizens’ Advice Bureau
TUC – Know Your Rights Helpline 0870 600 4882
Please do note that for recovery of unpaid wages or deductions, the time limit for taking action through an Employment Tribunal is 3 months from the date of the last deduction or failure to pay.
If you do wish to make a complaint anonymously, we would encourage you to contact us to discuss your complaint so that we can provide appropriate advice.
However, please do note that the REC does not normally accept anonymous complaints, as we require full disclosure from all parties in a complaints investigation.
If you wish to make a complaint and remain anonymous you should refer the matter to the Department of Business, Innovation and SKills (BIS), who have the authority to investigate complaints on an anonymous basis. The REC may instigate an investigation if evidence or allegations in the public arena come to its attention that suggests that a member may have breached the Code of Professional Practice.
Where we are informed that an agency who is not a member of the REC is using our logo(s) either on their website or within their registration or marketing materials, then the REC will write to that agency/individual as a matter of course.
We are unable to carry out a complaints investigation at the same time as an ongoing legal dispute due to issues surrounding the disclosure of information. Therefore, if a legal dispute is in progress at the time that a complaint is made to the REC and there is also a potential breach of the Codes, we would ask that you return to us once the legal proceedings have been concluded so we can look into any potential breaches of the Codes.
In any case where a legal dispute is imminent but one is not active at the time the complaint is made and there is a potential breach of one of the Codes, we would also ask that you consider taking the same approach as outlined above.
If a legal dispute becomes active during a complaints investigation, the REC’s complaints investigation will be suspended until the conclusion of the legal proceedings. Once the legal proceedings have been concluded, the REC may re-commence its investigation to see if there are any potential breaches of one of the Codes.
Please note that we are unable to provide a mediation service in any legal disputes.
The REC is a voluntary membership organisation and professional association for recruitment agencies and individual recruitment professionals.
We are not a government body and do not have statutory authority.
The REC’s Code of Professional Practice applies to all corporate members of the REC and the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct applies to Individual Members of the REC's Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP) and any allegations of a breach of these Codes will be dealt with under the Complaints and Disciplinary Procedure. The Codes seeks to establish higher ethical standards than the minimum expected so that REC Corporate and IRP members are able to differentiate themselves through good practice.
Neither the Codes nor the Complaints & Disciplinary Procedure are legal documents and the REC’s Complaints Procedure cannot be a substitute for legal action.
If you are a temporary worker, this includes action to claim any money owed due to non-payment of wages, holiday pay or unlawful deductions. Please see this FAQ for advice.
If you are a client, this includes action regarding disputed contracts or invoices In addition, we are not able to deal with claims for compensation.
Therefore, any complaints investigation carried out by the REC in relation to a member will focus purely on professional practice. The link above will take you to a fact sheet, which includes information on timescales for legal action.