The Impact of the UK Temporary Employment Industry in Assisting Agency Workers since the Year 2000
This thesis is concerned with assessing the impact of the UK temporary employment industry in assisting agency workers since the year 2000, and incorporates four research questions: (1) To what extent have temporary employment agencies provided employment opportunities to vulnerable groups since the year 2000? (2) How are individuals psychologically affected by working as temporary agency workers, and what are the implications? (3) Individual agency workers often interact with several different groups including temporary employment agencies, third party employers, permanent workers and trade unions. Are there tensions that exist between these groups, and how do they manifest themselves? (4) Recent legislative development has occurred with the adoption of the Agency Workers Directive. What are the implications for individual agency workers and temporary employment agencies?\ud In order to investigate these questions, the study‟s research design incorporated semi-structured interviews and ethnographic analyses of diary extracts. The interviewees consisted of twenty-five participants, including agency workers, their permanent counterparts, recruitment consultants, and representatives from third party employers. I also recorded my experiences as an agency worker during several assignments, and the ethnographic analysis of these diary extracts represented a second source of findings. The approach of the thesis challenged the traditional quantitative method that has been prevalent throughout previous psychologically-orientated studies into agency working.\ud Results highlighted the importance of motive, as it was found to influence how agency workers viewed their ensuing employment. Permanent workers‟ perception of their company‟s motive for utilising agency staff was also highlighted as significant to their resulting reaction to their organisation‟s recruitment practices. The method of using agency workers to protect pre-existing staff from redundancy was indicated, and permanent workers will often this employment practice favourably. The lack of obligation inherent in the contract increases the vulnerability of agency workers, and may cause reduced levels of job security and organisational commitment within the individual. The assumption that agency working is short term and cyclical can also lead to isolation from the workforce, as permanent workers may consider agency staff as non-committal, dispensable, and un-invested in the organisation.\ud Several findings relating to the relationships which form between the main parties also emerged. A lack of contact between the recruitment consultant and the individual worker represented a potential obstacle, whereas the priority that temporary employment agencies placed upon fulfilling the needs of their client companies was also identified. The agency employment industry argues that it provides individuals with opportunities for permanent transition into the third party employer, but limited autonomy, short-term assignments, and the simplistic nature of tasks represented significant barriers to achieving this goal. The thesis concluded that the recently-adopted Agency Workers Directive would result in a reduction of open-ended employment arrangements, and that tenure would typically be established prior to each assignment. Recommendations for future research included a post-adoption analysis of the impact of the Agency Workers Directive, and an increased focus upon permanent worker reaction and perception regarding their company‟s utilisation of agency staff.
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