The effects of outsourcing work activity and use of agency staff on ill health absence: the case of local authority waste collection services (in the UK)

Conference item


Thomas, D. 2022. The effects of outsourcing work activity and use of agency staff on ill health absence: the case of local authority waste collection services (in the UK). Ergonomics and Hygiene 2022 - https://conference.ieh.sg/about. The Fullerton Hotel Singapore 31 Aug - 01 Sep 2022
TitleThe effects of outsourcing work activity and use of agency staff on ill health absence: the case of local authority waste collection services (in the UK)
AuthorsThomas, D.
Abstract

As with other industries Local Authorities (LAs) in the UK have had to contracting services through outsourcing and using agency staff to cover both peaks in workload and staff shortages. This presents data protection challenges with regards information sharing for evaluating the effects of work on the health of employees (Ill health absence) in order for employers to make changes to the workplace to create sustainable systems of works.
The study examines and provides new insight into the effects of outsourcing work activity and using agency staff on ill health absence. It draws on evidence from local authority waste collection staff in the UK and New Zealand. Firstly absence and attendance data from an in-house service was obtained to identify both absence data and what type of work agency workers were used. Secondly, London local authorities were contacted to identify which services were in house and what absence data was made available to the client team responsible for specifying the system of work. 19 LAs were subsequently contacted using Freedom of Information requests. Finally, interviews were carried out with local authority and contracted out staff to identify how ill health data analysis is specified in the contract.
None of the LAs obtained and compared ill health absence data as part of their management review process. In depth interviews with 6 UK and New Zealand LA Waste and Contract Management Managers identified that the sharing of ill health data between agency and LA for in house services and between contractor and client is difficult to obtain and doesn’t always appear in contract specification. Closer interrogation of historic data from one LA identified that the effects of agency staff understate ill health absence between 8% and 20% depending on the activity carried out complicating comparison processes.
The paper contributes to knowledge in a number of ways. Agency workers do not have the same level of H&S protection than permanent workers. There are inadequate contract specification and practices for the management of ill health of agency workers; including information sharing. Finally, that agencies and contracted out services do not understand their H&S responsibilities with regards agency worker H&S. With agency staff identified as having varying legacy issues the study suggests that ill health absence is understated possibly to the detriment of workers. In short, they do not have the same levels of protection as permanent workers Recommendations are made for both contract management but also the enforcement strategies of enforcement.

Sustainable Development Goals3 Good health and well-being
8 Decent work and economic growth
9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure
10 Reduced inequalities
11 Sustainable cities and communities
12 Responsible consumption and production
16 Peace, justice and strong institutions
Middlesex University ThemeSustainability
Health & Wellbeing
Research GroupCorporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics group
LanguageEnglish
ConferenceErgonomics and Hygiene 2022 - https://conference.ieh.sg/about
Publication dates
Print01 Sep 2022
Publication process dates
Deposited30 Sep 2022
Completed01 Sep 2022
Accepted30 Aug 2011
Output statusIn press
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