IPR Policy Brief - Temporary agency work in the UK today: Precarity intensifies despite protective legislation

Athanasios Maroukis, Emma Carmel

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In the last quarter of 2014, the UK unemployment rate reached its lowest level for more than six years (5.8%). However, this fall in unemployment was accompanied by a rise in temporary, insecure and precarious work for both British and migrant workers.

Temporary agency work (TAW), which reached a historical high during the recent financial crisis (Forde and Slater 2014), constitutes a significant part of this job-growth. Estimates on the number of temporary agency workers in the UK economy vary.

Labour Force Survey (LFS) data point to 321,165 temporary agency workers in the UK in 2012 constituting 1.27% of the employed workforce (Forde and Slater 2014). In the same year, the British government, as well as the employers’ organisation Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC 2014) jointly estimated the number of agency workers at around 1.1 million.

‘Jobs-to-Rent’, research by Dr Thanos Maroukis (Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath), analysed interviews with British and migrant temporary agency workers about their experiences in three sectors of the UK labour market: the hospitality, healthcare and food industries. Over the last decade, significant policy initiatives, notably the European Union Agency Worker Regulations (AWR), have sought to mitigate the precariousness and vulnerability of temporary agency workers.

However, Jobs-to-Rent found that agencies and companies use legal loopholes and exemptions to circumvent regulatory protections for these workers. In doing so, these employers intensify the employment insecurity and precarious living conditions of agency workers.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Bath
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


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