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UK firms now using agency workers to plug skills gap

A cheaper alternative, skilled agency workers are becoming more popular

The Resolution Foundation’s recent study found that most employers use agency workers to cover gaps in staffing rather than as a cheaper alternative to permanent staff. The think tank’s survey of 500 HR decision makers at private sector firms already using agency workers revealed that most companies use agency workers for traditional reasons, such as filling gaps in staffing (46%) or as a last resort (19%).

The results also show that companies aren’t turning to agency workers as a cost control device overall, with 29 per cent believing they are cheaper or more expensive than direct employees.

Businesses that are heavily reliant on agency workers (with over a quarter of their workforce made up of agency workers) were more likely to take a strategic approach (42% of such firms compared to 18% of firms that hired less than 5% of their workforce via agencies). Companies that have increased their use of agency workers in recent years were also a third more likely to use agency workers strategically.

While covering absence was still firms priority, managing uncertain or seasonal demand and using agencies to outsource training and payroll were key considerations for this group.

Meanwhile, one-quarter of companies indicated they plan to increase their use of agency workers over the next five years, and over half expect to maintain their current usage.

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