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The incidence and impact of flexible working arrangements in smaller businesses

Gill Maxwell (Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)
Laura Rankine (Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)
Sheena Bell (School of Business and Management, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)
Anna MacVicar (Phoenix University, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 9 January 2007




The aim of this article is to investigate the incidence and impact of FWAs in smaller businesses in Scotland, as an integral part of a recent European Social Fund project. From theoretical perspectives it discusses the influences on, and impacts of, flexible working arrangements. The focus is then placed on the smaller business sector as regards its distinctive features and flexible working arrangements.


The papers presents the findings from empirical work comprising a large‐scale survey of, and series of interviews with, owner‐managers of smaller businesses in Scotland.


Part‐time work, time off in lieu, staggered working hours and shift swapping are the main types of flexible work in smaller businesses. In many incidences flexible working arrangements are requested by employees, operated informally, and centred on the business needs. There is significant scope for greater uptake of flexible working arrangements in smaller businesses, especially in services sector businesses. Positive impacts of flexible work arrangements in recruitment and retention, enhanced employee relations, commitment and loyalty are found, together with disadvantages of operational problems and administrative burdens. It is proposed that the gap between the potential for, and current practice in, flexible working arrangements may be narrowed by targeting information and guidance on such arrangements specifically to the owner‐managers of smaller businesses.


The literature on flexible working mainly concentrates on large organisations. With the growing economic importance and distinguishing features of the smaller business sector in the UK, there is a need to focus as much on this sector as large organisations.



Maxwell, G., Rankine, L., Bell, S. and MacVicar, A. (2007), "The incidence and impact of flexible working arrangements in smaller businesses", Employee Relations, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 138-161.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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