Temporary work agencies and workplace health and safety

Employment through temporary work agencies (temp agencies) is increasingly common in our changing economy. This type of employment involves workers who are employed by temporary work agencies and then hired out to perform work at, and under the supervision of, clients of these agencies.

The temporary work agency sector is flourishing in advanced economies. In the United States, temporary help services more than doubled between 1990 and 2008, from 1.1 to 2.3 million workers. Similar percentage increases have been noted in most European Union countries. (Comparable statistics for Canada are not collected by Statistics Canada.)

Researchers at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) have conducted a qualitative study on the management of injury prevention and return to work in temporary work agencies, with a focus on low-wage work. The study has resulted in important findings, which are reported on in a number of resources. These are listed here.

Why study temporary work agencies?

  • This backgrounder explains the health, safety and return-to-work challenges facing the temporary work agency sector.

Understanding health, safety and return to work in temporary work agencies

The IWH study explores the experiences of temporary work agencies, their clients who hire labour from them, their workers and related key informants (e.g. regulators and policy advisers) with respect to occupational health and safety and return to work within the temp agency sector.

Experience rating and temporary work agencies

The study also allowed researchers to take a closer look at the relationship between experience rating and the management of health, safety and return to work.