The Taylor Report and the (re)construction of preference for flexible working

This is a Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC) seminar taking place at Leeds University Business School on Wednesday 28 November 2018


The Taylor Review, while celebrating the 'largely successful' British way characterised by a flexible labour market, proposes that flexibility complements individual lifestyle and preference (2017). This suggests that the demographics of the labour market define choice and job characteristics. This paper unpacks the Review's assertion that 'certain groups are also more likely to place a greater importance on flexibility such as carers, women, those with disabilities and older workers..... Flexibility can allow these groups to participate more fully in the labour market by enabling them to balance work around other priorities' (2017:15) The paper draws upon research undertaken for the Low Pay Commission on the experiences of workers on non-standard contracts (zero hours, minimum hours and dependent self-employment) in the context of the Taylor Review. It focuses upon the transfer of risk and the social costs of employment from employer onto worker; intermittent or episodic work (Rubery et al., 2015); the shift in the ratio of paid to unpaid labour and removal of 'unproductive' work time from the remit of paid labour. In particular it explores the notion of worker preference and Taylor's implicit retreat from organisational responsibility to provide jobs that facilitate work-life balance (Fleetwood, 2007) or reasonable adjustment, as well as the 'business case for diversity'. Constrained choices belie Taylor's emphasis on work-life balance as an indicator of job quality and 'a trade-off', reconstructing wider labour market segregation and recalling older feminist debates about the trap of part-time work for women (Rubery et. al., 1998).