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Contingent Employment in Europe and the United States

Edited by Ola Bergström and Donald Storrie

Contingent Employment in Europe and the United States examines the developments in labour markets in advanced economies in the 21st century, as regards contingent employment. This is defined as employment relationships that can be terminated with minimal costs within a predetermined period of time. This includes fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work and self-employment. Contingent employment has been the subject of much legislative activity in the last decade, at both the national and European level. Temporary agency work, in particular, has recently been extensively deregulated in most European countries and currently we await the fate of a proposed EU directive on agency work. The book is therefore highly topical.
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Chapter 3: Contingent employment in the UK

Surhan Cam, John Purcell and Stephanie Tailby


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. In part this reflected the...

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