Choices, choices… Why do firms use agency workers?

Published on Jobs, Skills and Pay

In December 2017 we commissioned ComRes to survey 500 human resources decision makers in UK private sector firms that hire agency workers. This report explores the results, and busts some myths about why firms choose to use agency workers.

  • 43 per cent of firms who were using agency workers reported intensifying their use of agency workers over the last 5 years. This is only slightly lower than the proportion of firms that have maintained their agency worker share, and stands in stark contrast to the 9 per cent of firms that have decreased their use over time.
  • Our survey shows that the majority of firms that make use of agency workers still hire them primarily as ‘stop-gaps’. For such firms, agency workers are expedient, brought in when needed or as a last resort.
  • However, one-third of firms are taking a more strategic approach. The survey shows such firms have made an active business decision to hire agency workers either extensively or exclusively for certain roles.
  • More than 4 in 10 agency worker reliant firms take a strategic approach to their use, suggesting there is a segment of firms who view agency workers as a key part of their business model.
  • Moreover, firms that take a strategic rather than stop-gap approach are more likely to have grown their agency worker share in the last 5 years, although overall, underlying economic uncertainties clearly play a larger role in explaining the upward trend in use.