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New Contractual Relationships in the Agency Worker Market: The Case of the UK's National Health Service

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  • Kim Hoque
  • Ian Kirkpatrick
  • Alex De Ruyter
  • Chris Lonsdale

Abstract

In recent years, there has been a trend towards the negotiation of closer contractual relationships between employers and employment agencies. However, little is known about this change or its likely consequences. In theory, such relationships can benefit employers by lowering fees and also reducing many of the hidden costs associated with the use of agency staff by improving the effectiveness of placement matching. Against this is the suggestion that formal partnerships are unlikely to have a positive impact given the uncertainty of demand for temporary labour and broader tendencies for risk displacement in buyer-supplier networks. In this article, our aim is to explore this matter focusing on recent developments in the UK's National Health Service. We find that new contractual relationships such as framework agreements and master vendor contracts are having mixed effects. While they serve to reduce direct costs for employers in the short term, this has been at the expense of relationship building and improvements in placement matching. These developments are also found to have some potentially negative consequences for the agency workforce itself. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2008.

Suggested Citation

  • Kim Hoque & Ian Kirkpatrick & Alex De Ruyter & Chris Lonsdale, 2008. "New Contractual Relationships in the Agency Worker Market: The Case of the UK's National Health Service," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 46(3), pages 389-412, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:46:y:2008:i:3:p:389-412
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stephanie Tailby, 2005. "Agency and bank nursing in the UK National Health Service," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 19(2), pages 369-389, June.
    2. Chris Forde & Gary Slater, 2005. "Agency Working in Britain: Character, Consequences and Regulation," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 43(2), pages 249-271, June.
    3. Laurie Hunter & Diane Sinclair, 1996. "A 'Partnership' Route To Human Resource Management?," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(2), pages 235-257, March.
    4. Simon Peel & Peter Boxall, 2005. "When is Contracting Preferable to Employment? An Exploration of Management "and" Worker Perspectives," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(8), pages 1675-1697, December.
    5. Jamie Peck & Nikolas Theodore, 1998. "The Business of Contingent Work: Growth and Restructuring in Chicago's Temporary Employment Industry," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 12(4), pages 655-674, December.
    6. Guy Davidov, 2004. "Joint Employer Status in Triangular Employment Relationships," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 42(4), pages 727-746, December.
    7. Gideon Kunda & Stephen R. Barley & James Evans, 2002. "Why Do Contractors Contract? The Experience of Highly Skilled Technical Professionals in a Contingent Labor Market," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(2), pages 234-261, January.
    8. Susan N. Houseman & Arne L. Kalleberg & George A. Erickcek, 2003. "The Role of Temporary Agency Employment in Tight Labor Markets," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(1), pages 105-127, October.
    9. Forde, Chris, 2008. "“You know we are not an Employment Agency”: Manpower, Government, and the Development of the Temporary Help Industry in Britain," Enterprise & Society, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(02), pages 337-365, June.
    10. Marchington, Mick & Grimshaw, Damian & Rubery, Jill & Willmott, Hugh (ed.), 2004. "Fragmenting Work: Blurring Organizational Boundaries and Disordering Hierarchies," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199262243.
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    Cited by:

    1. Syed Muhammad Waqar Hussain & Munir Hussain, 2014. "Factors influencing the employees’ job placement through recruitment agencies in Karachi, Pakistan," KASBIT Business Journals, Khadim Ali Shah Bukhari Institute of Technology (KASBIT), vol. 7(2), pages 79-106, December.

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