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Explaining the provision of flexitime in companies across Europe (in the pre-and post-crisis Europe): role of national contexts

Heejung Chung

Abstract

One way of simultaneously increasing work-life balance while keeping costs down for both governments and companies is the use of flexible working-time arrangements (flexitime). Though flexitime plays an increasingly prominent role in occupational welfare not much is known about its provision, especially at a cross-national comparative manner. This paper examines the provision of flexitime in companies across a number of European countries using the European Company Survey for 2004 (21 countries) and 2009 (27 countries). It applies a multilevel modelling technique, wherein companies are considered to be nested in countries, and national and company level characteristics are included in the model simultaneously. 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 are not necessarily the same as those explaining why companies provide it to a larger group of workers, and provide an extended use of flexitime such as the ability to accumulate hours or take days off through these accumulated hours. 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. In sum, 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.

Key Findings

  • Analysis of European Company Survey data for 2004 and 2009.
  • In 2009, 57% of all companies provide flexitime to at least one employee. This is an increase from 2004, where 49% of companies surveyed provided flexitime.
  • Where a company provides flexitime, they are likely to provide it to a majority of employees (average 70%).
  • Approximately 70% of all companies that use flexitime say they allow workers to accumulate hours (flexihours). 76% of companies allowing flexihours also allowing accumulation of hours to take days off (flexidays).
  • In explaining the provision of flexitime, data suggest that company composition (more women and skilled workers), structure (large companies and service sectors) and agency factors (existence of an employee representative) all play a role.
  • In 2009, cross-national variance in the provision of flexitime can be explained mostly through national level demand, as influenced by 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.

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