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UK agency workers ‘to reach one million’ in number by 2020

If current growth trends continue, the number of agency workers is set to reach one million by 2020 if current growth trends continue

Think Tank, Resolution Foundation, has conducted research which describes agency workers as “the forgotten face” in the debate around insecure work.  They estimated that a full-time agency worker gets £430 less than an employee in the same role.

The Resolution Foundation said that women accounted for 85% of the growth in temporary agency workers.  Although a factual reason could not be given at the present time, this will form part of an 18-month investigation into the subject.

The organisation says that the workers are disadvantaged by lower pay as well as not being entitled to sick or parental leave pay and they are also more easily dismissed.

According to the report, half of all agency workers say they work on a permanent basis and three-quarters work full-time.  While there are good reasons for companies to use agency workers, the associated pay penalty was concerning, it said.

Key findings are:

  • Agency workers are most likely to be in the health and social work sectors, followed by manufacturing and business activities (e.g. conference organisers, consultancy services, literary agents)
  • Ethnic minorities are three times more likely to be agency workers than white workers
  • Nearly one in five (18%) are based in London
  • Six in 10 are UK nationals (compared with more than eight in 10 of the overall workforce)

“While zero-hours contracts are often in the news, agency workers are the ‘forgotten face’ of the modern workforce, despite being just as prevalent across the labour market,” said Lindsay Judge, senior policy analyst.

“This fast-growing group is not just made up of young people looking for temporary employment as some have suggested, but instead includes many older full-time, permanent workers.

“With the prospect of higher inflation squeezing living standards in the years ahead it is important that the discussion of the non-traditional parts of work in modern Britain consider the relatively lower pay that agency workers receive compared to identical employees in similar jobs,” she added.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly at work regardless of the type of contract they are on…

“The Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate regulates the sector and investigates every valid complaint made against an employment business.”

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