Purpose – Temporary workers have many human resource and labour market implications. These consequences are further influenced with the introduction of new legislation relating to temporary workers. The purpose of this article is to present research on the impacts of the legislation – Fixed Term Employees Regulations and Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations – on temporary workers in the labour force. Design/methodology/approach – Information from 24 Labour Force Surveys, conducted between December 1997 and November 2003, were analysed with two longitudinal Labour Force Surveys. Qualitative data was also gathered from six temporary worker employers and 17 agency workers. Findings – Analysis of data demonstrated that the utilisation of temporary workers had declined in the labour force: Temporary workers had decreased in real terms by 24 per cent and agency workers who were less regulated by only 11 per cent. Also, an increased take‐up of permanent work by temporary workers was found post‐legislation (27 per cent) compared with pre‐legislation (22 per cent). Research limitations/implications – Some limitations exist in the study using National Statistics and qualitative data to analyse labour force dynamics. Further research is warranted in this area investigating how strategic decisions in utilising temporary workers are formed and how recent legislation has influenced these policies. Practical implications – Changes in temporary worker legislation have direct consequences to the labour force. Originality/value – The paper reveals the decline of temporary workers in the labour force between 1997 and 2003 and examines specific legislation, which may have influenced this phenomenon.