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Evaluating the prevalence of employees without written terms of employment in the European Union

Colin C. Williams (Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Aysegul Kayaoglu (Department of Economics, Istanbul Teknik Universitesi, Istanbul, Turkey)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 5 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Until now, there has been scant evidence on the proportion and characteristics of employees working without a written contract or terms of employment. To begin to fill this gap, the purpose of this paper is to evaluate the prevalence and distribution of employees without written contracts or terms of employment in the European Union (EU), examining whether they are unevenly distributed across countries and EU regions, and whether it is vulnerable population groups who are more likely to be without such written contracts.

Design/methodology/approach

A 2013 Eurobarometer survey comprising 11,025 face-to-face interviews with employees in the 28 member states of the EU (EU-28) is reported.

Findings

The finding is that it is less socio-demographic and socio-economic characteristics, and more firm size, institutional environment and spatial factors that are important in explaining the prevalence of employment without a written contract. Thus, governments should address not individuals but rather the formal institutional failings and asymmetry between civic and state morality, in order to reduce the level of employment without a written contract, and focus their attention on smaller firms, larger towns and Southern European countries, especially Cyprus, Malta and Portugal.

Research limitations/implications

Future research needs to evaluate whether and how the conditions of employment (e.g. wage rates, health and safety conditions, holiday entitlements) of employees without written contracts or terms of employment differ to their equivalents who have written contracts or terms of employment. This will reveal the implications of workers not being issued with written contracts or terms of employment.

Originality/value

This is one of the first extensive evaluations of the prevalence and distribution of employees without written contracts or terms of employment.

Keywords

Citation

Williams, C.C. and Kayaoglu, A. (2017), "Evaluating the prevalence of employees without written terms of employment in the European Union", Employee Relations, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 487-502. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-10-2016-0189

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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