More nurses and teachers are choosing agency work according to a report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

The report, which looks into the use of agency workers in the public sector, found agency staff in teaching and nursing were likely to be highly experienced, however preferred the work-life balance from agency work.

The main reasons cited including escaping stress and office politics through working flexible hours.

The report also involved NHS Trust managers, who reported that agency staff’s skills were on par with permanent employees, with concerns around continuity rather than skill level.

Both headteachers and NHS Trust managers believe it’s unlikely agency staff spending will reduce significantly in the future.

REC chief executive Kevin Green commented, “When we speak to agency nurses and supply teachers they say they’ve made a positive choice to work this way because they want the freedom and flexibility to work where and when they choose.”

“Being a nurse or a teacher is a hugely demanding job which comes with all sorts of pressures so it’s no surprise that some experienced professionals want to achieve a better work-life balance.

“For too long employers in the public sector have ignored this desire for flexibility when they should instead use it to develop ways to retain their talent and attract more people into these jobs to alleviate skills shortages.”

NIESR researcher Nathan Hudson-Sharp added: “Current rules around agency spending in the NHS seem to only address the symptoms of the problem. What they fail to do is tackle the underlying issue of demand continuing to outstrip supply.

“The future of agency working in the NHS would therefore seem to rest on implementing an approach that is much more comprehensive, and that would enable NHS employers to address underlying issues around staff shortages, training, workforce planning, recruitment and retention.”

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