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Flexible Work Arrangements and Hidden Inequalities

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  • Full or part time
    Dr N Wu
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Flexible working research was initiated as a means to understand how married, working women balance work and childcare responsibilities (Lewis, 2001). The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 states all employees who have been working continuously for the same employer in the UK for a minimum of 26 weeks have the legal right to request flexible working. The shift from focusing on parents or carers who have childcare or adult care responsibilities to any individuals who wish to improve their work life balance does not only reflect government attempts to promote equality and diversity through employment legislation, but also a business case for diversity.
However, variations of who request flexibility, the types of flexibility requested and the consequences of such requests among employees imply potential hidden inequalities associated with class location, gender and career advancement. (Brescoll et al., 2013; Williams, 2010). Flexibility stigma associated with career progression is equally evidenced between women and men who ever took advantage of employers’ policy of flexible working arrangements. Both male and female employees who requested part-time work after child birth were less likely to be recommended for promotion, leadership roles or a pay raise (Vandello et al., 2013). Caregiving men were therefore penalized for violensing gender stereotypes of masculinity and breadwinners role while females are viewed as uncommitted and incompetent (Coltrane et al., 2013).
Implications for HR managers and practitioners are workplace policies that provide flexible working arrangements must recognize and address hidden inequalities and discriminations against those who use them or the policies risk being undermined by employees engaging in bias avoidance (Bornstein, 2013). Implication for HRM study is flexible-working arrangements should no longer be viewed as a human resource tactic at workplaces mainly for a disadvantaged workforce (Kossek et al., 2010). Flexible-working may well be another managerial approach that could potentially shape the foundations upon which modern organisations are built (Wood et al., 2003). Beyond the employer-led flexibility mainly addressing operational needs or employee-led flexibility primarily satisfying individual needs (‘disadvantaged’ workforce) (Gregory & Milner 2009), employers may need to explore organisational change initiatives in particular in organisational structure and culture in order to fully embrace the work-life balance value and facilitate its operation across the workforce regardless of differences in ranks, occupations or care responsibilities (Kossek et al., 2010; Wu, 2017).
Applications for a doctoral study of researching various forms of hidden inequalities associated with flexible work arrangements in the workplace are welcome. Candidates will conduct questionnaire survey for data collection and analysis.


Bornstein, S. (2013) The Legal and Policy Implications of the “Flexibility Stigma”. Journal of Social Issues, 69(2): 389—405.
Brescoll, V. L., Glass, J., & Sedlovskaya, A. (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), 367–388.
Coltrane, Miller, DeHaan, & Stewart (2013), Fathers and flexibility stigma. Journal of Social Issues, 69(2), 279–302.
Gregory & Milner 2009 Gregory A and Milner S (2009) Trade unions and work-life balance: changing times in France and the UK? British Journal of Industrial Relations, 47(1): 122–46.
Kossek EE, Lewis S and Hammer LB (2010) Work-life initiatives and organizational change: Overcoming mixed messages to move from the margin to the mainstream. Human Relations, 63(1): 3–19.
Lewis, J. (2001). The decline of the male breadwinner model: Implications for work and care. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 8(2):152-169.
Vandello, J. A., Hettinger, V. E., Bosson, J. K., & Siddiqi, J. (2013). When equal isn’t really equal: The masculine dilemma of seeking work flexibility. Journal of Social Issues, 69(2): 303–321.
Williams, J. C. (2010). Reshaping the work-family debate: Why men and class matter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wood, S., de Menezes, L. M., & Lasoasa, A. (2003). Family-friendly management in Great Britain: testing various perspectives. Industrial Relations, 42 (2): 221–50.
Wu, N. (2017) Flexible Work Arrangements: Are We Ready for This? In Caven, V. and S. Nachmias (eds.) Hidden Inequalities in the Workplace: A guide into current challenges, issues and business solutions, pp. 127-154. London: Palgrave. ISBN 978-3-319-59686-0.

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