Flexible scheduling, degradation of job quality and barriers to collective voice

Alexander Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the operation of flexible scheduling in practice through a case study of a large retail firm in the United Kingdom. It includes analysis of 39 semistructured interviews, participant observation of shop floor work and non-participant observation of union organizing as well as analysis of key documents. The findings highlight the high level of generalized temporal flexibility across employment statuses. This temporal flexibility enables firm flexibility without necessitating a reliance upon contingent workers. Temporal flexibility is found to entail manager-control of flexible scheduling and is shown to be damaging to perceptions of job quality as it acts as a barrier to work-life balance. Union presence and collective bargaining at the firm are found to be ineffective at influencing flexible scheduling so as to improve job quality. This ineffectiveness can be explained by the union operating in an employer-dominated industrial relations environment in which its associational power is unable to compensate for a lack of institutional and structural economic power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1989-2010
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number10
Early online date19 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • contingent
  • flexibility
  • job quality
  • partnership
  • retail
  • scheduling
  • trade union
  • voice
  • working time


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