“Outsourcing” is the subcontracting of a service — such as cleaning or catering — to an outside contractor or company, rather than employing internal staff to provide it. The outside company - often referred to as the service provider or “third-party” provider - arranges for their own workers or systems to perform tasks or services specified in an agreement or contract, either on their own site or on the hiring organisation's site.

Outsourced services should be selected and contracted through effective and legally compliant procurement policies and procedures. Such procurement, particularly of high-cost or large-scale services, can be a complex business and may require knowledge of EU regulations and the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) Regulations 2006.

Procuring goods and services is dealt with in a separate topic.

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