A retreat from permanent employment?: Accounting for the rise of professional agency work in UK public services

Ian Kirkpatrick, Kim Hoque

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The last five years have witnessed a steady growth in the use of agency workers to fill core professional roles in public sector organizations. Whereas in the past the use of agency workers was driven mainly by employer demands for improved flexibility, this current expansion is predominantly supply led occurring against a backdrop of increasingly tight labour markets. In this article our objective is to explore some of the factors that lie behind this change. Specifically, we raise questions about how far current trends can be explained using the ‘free agent perspective’ and the notion of portfolio careers. Focusing on one group of professionals in the UK public sector -local authority social workers -we find only limited evidence to support this interpretation. Instead, it is argued that current moves into agency work are in large part a reaction to increasing rigidities in the employment system and to deteriorating conditions of work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-666
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Volume20
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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