Use of Agency Staff in Public Sector

Project Icon Project Status

Summary & aims

The objective of this research is to improve the evidence base on the use of agency staff in the public sector. It is exploring in detail the extent to which relevant public sector organisations use agency workers, and analysing how HR practice and local and national labour markets (including skills availability, pay and working conditions) interact in influencing public sector workers’ decisions to work for employment agencies. The findings of this project will inform the UK Pay Review Bodies about the recruitment and retention picture, and help them to establish any implications of use of agency staff, in different contexts, for their pay recommendations.



This research was undertaken in two stages. The first stage consisted of a systematic literature review to establish the current evidence base, along with interviews with pay experts. The second stage involved the gathering and analysis of new qualitative information. This included in-depth qualitative interviews with public sector employers and recruitment agencies, as well as conducting focus groups with agency staff currently working within the public sector.

Timescale and funder

The evaluation is funded by the Office of Manpower Economics. It began in March 2016 and was published in December 2016.


Agencies help address teacher shortages but risk exposing schools to market forces, NIESR blog by Johnny Runge

Staffing crisis pushes NHS staff into agency working, NIESR blog by Nathan Hudson-Sharp


Private: Johnny Runge
Principal Social Researcher


Private: Johnny Runge
Principal Social Researcher