New contractual relationships in the agency worker market: The case of the UK's National Health Service

Kim Hoque*, Ian Kirkpatrick, Alex De Ruyter, Chris Lonsdale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-412
Number of pages24
JournalBritish Journal of Industrial Relations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008

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