Chapter 17: Employer-oriented schedule flexibility, gender and family care
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‘Work schedule flexibility’ means fundamentally different things to workers and employers. Schedules may adjust to the supply side of the labor market, responding to the needs or preferences of a worker, often a family caregiver, to adjust times at work. Alternatively, changes in product demand, absenteeism, and turnover may create pressure on workers to adjust their work times in order for employers to maximize profits. A great deal of recent evidence has suggested tremendous pent-up excess demand for worker-oriented flexibility in many affluent countries, particularly in outliers such as the United States that do not require even the most rudimentary forms of flexibility such as paid vacation days or sick leave (Heymann, 2000). At the same time, workers on schedules that are driven by employers’ needs for flexibility often express tremendous frustration with the schedules (Baret, 2000; Henly and Lambert, 2005). As such, the two types of flexibility may be at odds. Worker-oriented flexibility can complicate a production schedule or the delivery of services, and employer-initiated flexibility can make it very difficult to address personal contingencies, plan time away from work, adhere to a routine, or prevent the fragmentation of one’s personal time.

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