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University of Bath

Temporary agency work in the UK today: Precarity intensifies despite protective legislation

An IPR Policy Brief about temporary agency work in the UK today.

In the last quarter of 2014, the UK unemployment rate reached its lowest level for more than six years (5.8%). However, this fall in unemployment was accompanied by a rise in temporary, insecure and precarious work for both British and migrant workers. Temporary agency work (TAW), which reached a historical high during the recent financial crisis (Forde and Slater, 2014), constitutes a significant part of this job-growth. Estimates on the number of temporary agency workers in the UK economy vary. Labour Force Survey (LFS) data point to 321,165 temporary agency workers in the UK in 2012, constituting 1.27% of the employed workforce (Forde and Slater, 2014). In the same year, the British government, as well as the employers’ organisation Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC, 2014) jointly estimated the number of agency workers at around 1.1 million.