Over-dependence on agency workers


Over-dependence on agency workers

To be absolutely clear, there’s no doubt that agency workers are likely to possess the same fundamental qualities as permanent or fixed term staff. However, it seems increasingly that the easy option of using agency staff – the ‘go to’ solution for treatment organisations needing to expand or fill gaps in teams to meet contractual/commissioned obligations – has started to create its own particular problems.

The ‘quick fix’ of the agency worker can easily become engrained over time. It seems that the ever changing nature of our sector means that an unnecessary reliance on an expensive resource has been created.

In reality, some of the people we talk to find that much of the capacity needed to meet gaps in staffing can be generated by adopting a demand-led approach to shift pattern design and management which unlocks the maximum potential of full-time employees’ contracted hours.

Put simply, if employers are able to maximise the effective recruitment of permanent and fixed term staff they save money, time and minimise organisational risks.

What are the risks of agency worker over-dependence?

Everyone in HR and Operations knows that there’s significant effort involved in managing the temporary element of their organisation.

The Agency Worker Regulations provide rights to the same basic employment and working conditions as if an individual had been recruited directly. This means that all working time-related management tasks and liabilities reside with the employer – ranging from monitoring working hours to administering breaks, accrued leave and shift swaps.

Ensuring all variances are handled effectively across full-time and agency workers can create serious admin headaches. It can also put you at risk of breaching regulations if your systems lack the capability to handle exceptions easily and accurately.

Shared Interest:

It’s clear to us that the majority of agency workers genuinely take great pride in what they do…but not all agency workers are the same.

And, to be fair, it’s unsurprising if some agency workers have a ‘short-term’ attitude…they may be great at their job but who can blame them in not going ‘above and beyond’ if they’re working somewhere else next month?

It’s in everyone’s interest, management and staff alike, if employers can create more full-time positions for individuals who have a shared interest in the long-term success of the organisation.

The certainty and personal development opportunities this creates can boost performance and help attract and retain experienced and motivated workers.

Permanent staff and fixed term staff have, by definition, more loyalty to the organisation they work for. They’re in it for the long term, have more time to thoroughly absorb internal policies and procedures and are much more likely to genuinely share your ethos and cultural mission. They have a career based investment in delivering quality performance are hungry for training opportunities, work hard to develop skills and are motivated by the potential for promotion.

The Hidden Cost:

Employment law experts argue that over reliance on a non-permanent workforce brings with it a range of potential problems, including health and safety risks, which could be caused by:

• Inadequate checks on qualifications and competence by agencies. 
• Lower levels of induction and training. 
• Lower quality provision of information, instruction, monitoring, supervision. 
• Unsuitability for the role they’re being asked to perform. 
• Poor communication from agencies at outset as to the profile/role.

All the above carry additional administrative overheads that form part of the hidden cost of using temporary staff.

Targeted Recruitment

It’s got to the point now that some organisations in the sector find themselves having to put temporary freezes on the recruitment of permanent employees because of the amount of budget being spent on agency staff. This is neither good for them as an organisation or the continuity of care offered their clients.

There will certainly always be a need for the high quality agency worker. No-one would argue with this. That said, we’d strongly suggest you use targeted recruitment campaigns to move your staffing away from agency-dependence and towards fixed term and permanent employees wherever circumstances allow.

The cost of your staff often makes up your largest spend. Over a period of time, permanent recruitment makes significant savings in agency fees, strengthens organisational ethos, deepens commissioner/customer confidence and ultimately offers your clients a consistency in the quality of service you provide them.

Recovery Recruitment’s expertise and focus is exclusively on permanent and fixed term positions in the addiction treatment sector.

If you’re an employer, or agency employee, and you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you move towards a more permanent position contact us for an informal, no obligation discussion on:

0203 784 4471

or email us at:





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