In the previous chapter, we examined the extent to which flexible working is widespread across the world. This chapter continues on from the previous chapter by examining why companies provide flexible working arrangements and who – which individuals – gets access to and uses flexible working. Through these analyses, this chapter aims to show that despite popular belief, provision of/access to flexible working may be still driven by performance-enhancing goals, rather than work-life balance or well-being goals. When examining who has access to flexible working arrangements, family and care demands of workers have limited explanatory power. Rather, it is better explained by the type of work carried out, the relative value the worker has – that is, their skill level, and position of seniority/power they carry, and in general how much performance outcomes employers can expect from these workers. This explains why disadvantaged workers, possibly with the most demand for such flexibility, are the least likely to gain access to such arrangements. This results in a rather polarised access to flexible working arrangements across the labour market. This chapter will look into these issues further. First, I explore the dual nature of flexible working – namely the different purposes it meets. I will then examine the theories explaining why employers provide flexible working arrangements. Finally, the chapter presents empirical evidence testing these theories, and reviews other already published work. This is done to argue that performance outcome goals may trump work-family goals when examining workers’ access to flexible working policies – depending on the flexible working arrangement in question.
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