The Work, Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance (WAF) Project today releases its first working paper by principal investigator Heejung Chung.
This paper examines the provision of flexitime in companies across a number of European countries. The results show that company composition, structure and agency factors all play a role in explaining the provision of flexitime. However, the factors explaining the provision of flexitime within each country are not necessarily the same as those explaining how companies provide it to employees.
Cross-national variance in the provision of flexitime in 2009 can be explained mostly through national level demand: female labour market participation rates, cultural norms on work, as well as the affluence of the country. This is a change from 2004, where the most important factors explaining the provision of flexitime were government efforts in providing family policy and the size of the public sector.
Overall, this paper shows that the more relevant factors in explaining why companies provide flexitime, especially as related to cross-national differences, seem to be based on the demand for such policies and the available resources to meet the demands.
Only 23%, or just over 1 in 5, UK workers have submitted requests for flexible working since the government legislation was introduced six months ago.
Research from O2 business shows that while 54% of workers were aware of their right to flexible working, there remain barriers to their taking advantage of it. Issues cited included lack of trust (31%), business culture (28%) and a lack of resources to work outside the office (28%).
This article notes that fathers who opt to take paternity leave can still face workplace stigma, and it can lead to lower pay and fewer promotions. This mirrors long-standing disadvantages experienced by new mothers in the workplace.
While paternity leave can have long-lasting beneficial effects for both parent and child, taking time off work for family reasons has been shown to reduce men’s earnings, just as it reduced women’s earnings. The article further argues that there are “unwritten workplace norms” that can discourage men from taking advantage of it. Moreover, the share of US companies offering paternity leave has dropped by five percent between 2010 and 2014.
The author point out that this also has implications for women’s involvement in the workplace, as increasing men’s involvement at home is one of the best ways to bolster female participation in the workforce.
Flexible working may not reduce gender inequality but, rather, exacerbate it.
Forthcoming research, based in the United States, found that men were significantly more likely to have similar flexible working requests granted than women.
Christin Munsch, one of the report authors suggests that such results demonstrate the importance of cultural influences on gender norms: women who make flexible working requests to look after children are viewed as both bad mothers and bad employees, and are punished for their perceived failings.
The authors suggest that there needs to be a cultural shift in attitudes to gender and work for flexible working to be successful in tackling workplace inequalities.
As part of the WAF Project we will provide succinct summaries to key academic resources. These resources are drawn from peer-reviewed journals, or were written by academics for government departments or other organisations with remits that cover work flexibility, autonomy and work-life balance.
These academic resources form an important part of the literature this project is engaging with. More than this, they also provide an overview of the most important contributions to, and the state-of-the-art in, current academic debates. Continue reading →
Using a sample of 1,893 companies across 15 countries, the authors examine the relationship between public expenditure on national family-leave policies, employment legislation and culture, and use of flexible working.
They find that these three areas of expenditure influence the use of flexible working, but that this depends on both context and type of flexible working. As such, they stress that researchers should consider both the national and institutional environments when designing and interpreting research on flexible working.
Kassinis, George I.; Stavrou, Eleni T. (2013) “Non-standard work arrangements and national context” European Management Journal, 31
Golden notes that distribution of flexible schedules among workers is quite uneven. It will depends on demographic and job characteristics of workers, including gender, race, education level, occupation, employment, and usual work hours.
Access to flexible working remains uneven by sector and is not equally shared across individuals. It is less likely for nonwhites, women, unmarried persons, those with relatively less education, and those employed in the public sector. It is higher in many of the occupations and industries with generally higher skills and lower unemployment.
Golden, Lonnie (2001) “Flexible Work Schedules: What Are We Trading Off to Get Them” Monthly Labor Review, March
This article examines the interaction between nation-level and organization-level variables in the provision of flexible working arrangements (FWA).
It finds that provision of FWA was positively associated with state support for combining work and family life. States where work assumed ‘cultural centrality’ were negatively associated with the provision of FWA.
Public sector and large organizations were more sensitive to state support and the cultural centrality of work than smaller and private sector organisations. Organisations with a greater proportion of female employees were less sensitive to state support.
The authors suggest that these findings demonstrate that organisational policies are affected by the national contexts in which they’re embedded, though organisational sensitivity may differ.
Den Dulk, Laura; Groeneveld, Sandra; Ollier-Malaterre, Ariane; Valcour, Monique (2013) “National context in work-life research: A multi-level cross-national analysis of the adoption of workplace work-life arrangements in Europe” European Management Journal, 31
This article demonstrates that flexible working was more likely to be granted to high-status men who requested flexible schedules to allow them to further develop their careers.
For women, neither their status nor their reason for wanting a flexible schedule significantly impacted decisions to grant their request.
They suggest this has the effect of both reinforcing gendered status hierarchies, and perpetuating them.
Managers’ Willingness to Grant Flexitime Request (Brescoll et al., 2013: 376)
Brescoll, Victoria, L.; Glass, Jennifer; Sedlovskaya, Alexandra (2013) “Ask and Ye Shall Receive? The Dynamics of Employer-Provided Flexible Work Options and the Need for Public Policy” Journal of Social Issues, 69(2)