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RecensionsBook Reviews

Flexible Work Arrangements: Conceptualizations and International Experience edited by Isik Urla Zeytinoglu, The Hague/London/New York: Kluwer Law International, 2002, 298 pp., ISBN 90-411-1947-7.[Record]

  • Hedva Sarfati

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  • Hedva Sarfati
    ISSA Consultant
    Geneva, Switzerland

The topic of flexible work arrangements, involving “non-standard” employment status and a variety of flexibility practices (working time, functional and numerical flexibility, etc.), is sometimes referred to in the literature as non-standard jobs, atypical employment contracts or contingent work. It has elicited much interest among academics (this review has devoted several articles to non-standard work, and vol. 59-3, 2004 was almost exclusively devoted to this topic, though mostly concentrating on Canada), policy makers and practitioners as the phenomenon has tended to expand over the past three decades as a result of increasing pressures exerted on governments, companies and individuals resulting from globalization, high and persistent unemployment (H. Sarfati, Flexibilité et création d’emplois: un défi pour le dialogue social en Europe, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1999), the growing “popularity” of a liberal (or “neo-liberal”) approach to regulation, and … growing demands from the workforce, particularly women, for more flexible work arrangements to reconcile work with family or other pursuits (education, community work, etc.). Much has been written on this phenomenon, which still contains a number of unexplored areas, blurred definitions and scope, diverse practices across companies, sectors and countries. These deserve close scrutiny for the sake of ensuring a better mutual outcome for the different parties concerned: policy makers, managements, trade unions and individuals, particularly to avoid a zero-sum game in the context of exacerbated competition. This book, edited by Zeytinoglu, constitutes a timely contribution to this debate by attempting to clarify the global concept that underpins the flexibility phenomenon and provides insights into firm-specific, sector-specific and either country-specific or cross-country experience. The book consists of four parts of very different lengths. A one-chapter part for the introduction and for the conclusion, a short section (three chapters) devoted to the “conceptualization of the phenomenon,” and a substantive section containing the empirical studies ranging from workplace to macro level (11 chapters). The geographical coverage includes Australia, Canada, US, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which have a long-term experience of flexible employment practices, and Finland, Germany, Italy and Sweden, which have introduced such practices more recently. The book offers analysis of diverse issues related to flexible work arrangements, such as the increased use of unpaid overtime to influence management flexibility and allowing some employee control over working hours (Australia), the extent to which regulation can provide career paths to flexible workers (Netherlands), problems associated with the introduction of annualized hours (UK), how functional flexibility works in practice and how it impacts both on organizations and employees in the hospitality and retail sectors where such flexibility is particularly relevant due to the unpredictable nature of demand (UK), the labour market social mechanism to accommodate a quasi self-employment with a fixed-term contract—a special kind of atypical work contract that recently emerged in Italy, assessing the extent to which household income can ensure income stability to precarious workers (Italy), how working time flexibility is implemented with strong sectoral unions vs. strong works councils (UK vs. Germany), how part-time work affects employee access to workplace participation, particularly among women (Australia), how the psycho-social work environment affects differently fixed term and “core” employees (Finland), the link between flexible work practices and employee-friendly corporate human resources policies (Finland), the importance of labour market segmentation among contingent and non-standard workers (US), and how member States implement the European Union directives on part time and fixed-term employment. Whereas much of past analysis of employment flexibility seems to have focused on manufacturing and some labour intensive services sectors (retail trade, temporary work agencies), this book includes examples from the public health sector (UK), accounting professionals (Canada), banking sector (Germany and the UK), …