Use of Agency Workers in the Public Sector

Pub. Date
20 February, 2017
Pub. Type

Commissioned by the Office of Manpower Economics, the purpose of this report was to better understand the use of agency staff in the UK public sector, particularly in health and education. The research aimed to outline and improve the evidence base, in order to understand the labour market for agency staff and how it is determined by pay, demand and supply. This report therefore draws on existing and new evidence to provide an overview of the triangular relationship between the agency worker, the recruitment industry and public sector employers, as well as providing detailed accounts of the nature of agency working within two large public sector areas.

Some of our main findings are:

  • There is an increased use of agency staff within the UK public sector
  • Agency staff are usually only used as a last resort, with concerns around the high monetary costs
  • Agency workers are a highly heterogeneous group
  • Public sector employees in health and education are ‘pushed’ rather than ‘pulled’ into agency working
  • Agency usage and spending will persist in the context of staff shortages

Read the full report here.

Other materials

Agencies help address teacher shortages but risk exposing schools to market forces – NIESR blog by co-author Johnny Runge

Staffing crisis pushes NHS staff into agency working – NIESR blog by co-author Nathan Hudson-Sharp

Podcast on the report, with Nathan Hudson-Sharp.