Edited by Ola Bergström and Donald Storrie
3. Contingent employment in the UK Surhan Cam, John Purcell and Stephanie Tailby INTRODUCTION This chapter analyses the general characteristics of contingent employment in the UK with particular focus on trends in the 1990s. Contingent employment is deﬁned primarily in terms of limited duration contracts (LDCs) but, as explained later, there are diﬃculties with both deﬁnitions and data sources. The most important groups of contingent workers are those with ﬁxed-term contracts (typically a duration of one year or less), casual and seasonal workers or those with very short contracts, and agency workers supplied by and often working for temporary work agencies (TWAs). Another group are those on ‘on-call’ or ‘zero-hour’ contracts. We ﬁrst provide an overview of government policy and employers’ responses to employment regulation since 1979. We then look at labour market trends in the 1990s with particular attention to trends in employment, unemployment, part-time and self-employment, and ‘temporary work’. This section also considers the ways in which contingent employment can be deﬁned and comments on the adequacy of available data sources. Next we use Labour Force Survey (LFS) data to review the pattern and distribution of contingent employment. Finally, we attempt to assess the accuracy of some arguments on contingent employment with references to macrostatistical data. What emerges is a complex picture of great variety, which does not support the stereotypes often linked to ‘temporary working’. GOVERNMENT POLICY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The UK’s experience of economic recession in the early 1980s was relatively severe....
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