Working time, industrial relations and the employment relationship

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This article explores the erosion of the standard working-time model associated with the UK's voluntarist system of industrial relations, and argues that its renegotiation is likely to be a critical factor in shaping the employment relationship of the future. As numerous studies over the last two decades have revealed, organizations have increasingly seen 'time' as a variable that can be manipulated to increase productivity or expand service provision, through making workers work harder, longer or according to management demands. These studies have also drawn our attention to the wider consequences of the increasing demands that organizations place on their employees in the name of 'flexibility', impacting both on what workers do while at work and how they organize and plan the other aspects of their lives. This article brings together two literatures, one on time and the other on industrial relations, and suggests that new working-time arrangements are changing the wage-effort bargain and blurring the previously clearly demarcated boundary between work and non-work time. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork in six large UK-based organizations, we argue that there is evidence of a move towards a new 'temporality' based on an employer-led model of working time, which differs significantly from both the traditional UK system of working-time regulation and that found in Continental Europe. copyright © 2005 SAGE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-111
Number of pages22
JournalTime and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


  • Employment relationship
  • Intensification of work
  • Non-working time
  • Organizational change
  • Working time


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