Agency working and the degradation of public service employment: The case of nurses and social workers

Alex de Ruyter, Ian Kirkpatrick, Kim Hoque, Chris Lonsdale, Judi Malan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the UK and elsewhere government efforts to reform or ‘modernize’ public services are currently having marked consequences for job quality, due to rising levels of work intensification, stress and declining morale. Such change has been linked to absenteeism, recruitment and retention problems. It is also suggested that deteriorating job quality has much to do with the current trend towards agency working among core public service professionals. In this article our aim is to explore this matter focusing on the experiences of National Health Service (NHS) nurses and local authority social workers. Our analysis suggests that benefits such as higher pay and improved flexibility have generated a strong ‘pull’ into agency contracts. However, the analysis also points to the deterioration of job quality as a key factor influencing decisions to opt out of permanent employment. The article concludes by suggesting that, in the longer term, public sector managers will only be able to stem the tide of nurses and social workers opting to work through agencies if they are also able to address wider problems associated with declining job quality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-445
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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