Private Employment Services Industry

Agency Work

Agency work is an internationally recognised and regulated form of employment. The agency worker has an employment contract with the employment agency. They are then deployed to a user firm and work under the guidance and supervision of the user company.

This “triangular employment relationship” improves allocation within the labour market. It allows workers to gain easy access to work and different work experiences as well as to combine work with other life choices and responsibilities. By using agency work, businesses can quickly find new workers and easily expand human resources when needed.

The promotion and creation of quality agency work requires a regulatory framework that is conducive to its growth. Although each country is different, some elements are key in achieving an appropriate regulatory framework.  These elements are reflected in the Convention on Private Employment Agencies (No. 181) and the Private Employment Agencies Recommendation (No. 188) adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). They include among others:

  • Banning of fee-charging to jobseekers and agency workers;
  • Acknowledgement and recognition of the employment relationship between the agency worker and the employment agency;
  • Recognition of jobseekers’ and agency workers’ rights to association and collective bargaining;
  • Successful collaboration between public and private employment services;
  • Effective and proportionate government oversight and enforcement; and
  • Recognition of the positive role quality private employment agencies play in labour market functioning.

The World Employment Confederation is a strong promoter of appropriate regulatory frameworks and works with the ILO, individual countries and international stakeholders to promote the implementation of these key elements into national legislation as well as in the ILO Convention 181 itself. The World Employment Confederation has developed several documents explaining the benefits of ratifying Convention 181 and supporting its implementation by countries.

The World Employment Confederation also carries out research work to increase knowledge about the agency work sector and ensure fact-based policy making:

  • The Smart Regulation Index developed by the World Employment Confederation and the Boston Consulting Group shows the existence of a strong positive correlation between regulation favourable to the private employment industry and labour market competitiveness.
  • The European Employment Barometer provides statistics on the agency work sector in Europe and can be used to assess correlations between trends in the agency work sector and other employment indicators as well as GDP.

At European level, joint research projects with trade unions are regularly conducted as part of the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue on Temporary Agency Work. For more information, visit WEC-Europe website.

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