Agency workers is as serious an issue as zero-hours contracts, with full-time agency staff earning hundreds of pounds a year less than employees doing the same jobs, according to a new report into the issue. The “exploitation of agency staff remains unaddressed,” while the treatment of staff on zero-hours contracts at workplaces like the Sports Direct warehouse has made headlines and prompted changes.
Lindsay Judge, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “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. 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.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady believes many agency workers are getting an unfair deal.
“Agency workers don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens. But they are often paid less than their permanent colleagues, even when they do exactly the same job,” says O’Grady. “We need the government to toughen the law to create a level playing field for agency workers. Too many employers are getting away with treating them unfairly.”
That data shows that:
The number of temporary agency workers providing holiday cover, Christmas temps and seasonal agricultural workers has risen to a 25-year high of around 340,000.
The foundation has also identified 440,000 permanent agency workers; a further 66,000 who are officially self-employed; and 20,000 who are agency workers in their second jobs.
Over the last 18 months, 14% of agency workers were also employed on zero-hours contracts.
Agency work is most prevalent in the healthcare and social sector, where 18% of all agency staff work, closely followed by manufacturing (17%) and business activities (17%).
Nearly one in five agency workers are in London, but the East Midlands has the largest share of the local labour force working in this way (3.2%).