‘Practising what they preach’? The disconnect between the state as regulator and user of employment agencies

Ian Kirkpatrick*, Alex de Ruyter, Kim Hoque, Chris Lonsdale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


There has been a considerable expansion of agency working in many countries in recent years. Based largely on neo-liberal thinking, this has been seen as a welcome means of promoting labour flexibility and creating jobs. Governments in Anglo-Saxon countries in particular have been keen to limit agency market regulation. However, in line with a shift from new public management (NPM) to post-NPM imperatives, the UK state, as an employer, has adopted an increasingly regulatory stance in its own dealings with employment agencies. Using data from three related research projects, we explore this development in the context of the UK's National Health Service (NHS). We highlight the problems that overt market liberalisation engendered and point to the steps the NHS has taken to address these problems through the introduction of framework agreements and the internalisation of flexibility. While these policies have generated new unforeseen challenges and tensions, they do point to a growing disconnect between the government's approach towards the regulation of agencies in the wider macroeconomic arena and its own approach as a user of agency services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3711-3726
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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