Skip to main content

Agency worker growth

Monday 5 December 2016

The number of agency workers is set to reach one million by 2020 if current growth trends continue, according to Resolution Foundation research released today.

Professor Ralph Darlington, of the University of Salford Business School comments on the report.

He said: “It has been claimed the growing use of zero hours contracts (ZHCs), agency work and the ‘gig-economy’ is transforming the way jobs, work and employment are organised. It is certainty true that the trend in such labour market practices threatens the security of secure, permanent employment (with a fixed monthly salary, fixed hours, paid holidays, sick pay, pension scheme, etc) by replacing it with precarious, irregular and casual work in which indirect agencies or ‘digital platforms’ can sometimes be the employer (often without many contractual benefits).

“But most reports wildly overstate the extent of such trends and downplay the fact that the vast majority of people remain employed in ‘traditional’ employment – hiring out their labour directly to an employer for a regular wage. Moreover such precarious trends do not preclude the possibility of so-called ‘old-fashioned’ collective workers’ resistance. Thus earlier this year, following protests organised by the Fast Food Rights campaign and Bfawu union, McDonald’s were pressured to offer all its employees the option of moving off ZHCs. KFC also withdrew their ZHCs and, following a campaign by the Unite union, Sports Direct was ordered to pay £1 million in compensation to staff, including agency workers, who it was admitted had not received the statutory minimum wage.

“‘Independent’ bike couriers at Deliveroo held a series of wildcat strikes supported by the small Independent Workers Union of Great Britain that forced the company to withdraw a new contract that threated to slash hourly pay rates.

“And the recent employment tribunal ruling against Uber, encouraged by the GMB union, for failing to treat its drivers as ‘employees’ with contractual benefits, also underlines the way in which the apparent onward march of precarity in employment is not as straightforward as it might seem.”

Find out more

Sam Wood

0161 295 5361