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Research Findings

Research Findings

How freelancers are disadvantaged when applying for full-time positions


July 14, 2020

Since the late-twentieth century, there has been an explosion of precarious work in the U.S labor market. The precariat comprises of a diverse set of workers, including but not limited to part-time, temporary, contingent workers, and independent contractors – or freelancers.

Freelancers make up a significant part of the precarious workforce. A survey reported that out of 57 million Americans who engaged in some types of nonstandard work in 2019, around 16 million considered themselves full-time freelancers. Despite its size and importance, freelancers remain understudied relative to other segments of the precarious workforce. Additionally, while we know a great deal about how workers transition out of traditional jobs to become freelancers, movements in the opposite direction received much less attention. My recent research explores how a history of freelancing affects workers’ subsequent career prospects.

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Research Findings

Between a promise and a salary: unpaid labor among student-migrant-workers


July 7, 2020

It has been argued that ‘capital’s lifeblood is unpaid work’. Scholars have examined unpaid work in sectors such as care work, creative industries, and voluntary work.

In a recent article, I demonstrate that many non-EU student-migrants perform unpaid work in an effort to build a successful future while inhabiting a legally insecure migration status. The students perform unpaid work in temporary and platform jobs to secure a renewed temporary student residence permit, as well as in unpaid internships with the hope of getting access to future highly skilled employment.

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Research Findings

How Managers Understand and Apply Merit in the Workplace


June 23, 2020

Most executives today understand that if their companies are to thrive in an increasingly competitive and dynamic marketplace, they must hire and retain the most talented employees. This has created imperatives to recruit job candidates solely on the basis of merit, and reward and promote employees based on their work performance.

Adding to these increasingly competitive pressures, companies are now at the center of intensely charged debates about racial and gender inequality. Facing a greater need than ever to demonstrate a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and racial justice, corporate executives, even those with openly progressive ethos, have struggled to rectify demographic imbalances in their organizations. For example, Google’s US workforce is just 32.0 percent female and only 3.7 percent Black, per the Google Diversity Annual Report 2020. To improve the recruitment and retention of underrepresented employees — and, importantly, to show that their decisions about whom to hire, reward, and promote are based on objective, fair, unbiased criteria — some companies have become eager to dismantle any role that bias might play in employment decisions and outcomes.

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Research Findings

How do wars affect workers in the United States?


June 19, 2020

During the height of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, workers producing military supplies were at the heart of a strike wave in the United States, calling for a more equitable distribution of war-profits in the form of higher wages and better benefits. Although little attention has been paid to them, such strikes by manufacturing workers in war-industries have caused nearly 2.2 million working days lost in recent decades.

This is not a new phenomenon: During the large wars of the twentieth century, industrial workers in the United States regularly engaged in strikes that raised their wages and ushered in new institutions designed to protect workers’ rights.

These recent strikes—alongside this historical relationship—raise an important question: How have U.S. wars affected workers in the twenty-first century? In a recent article, I explore this question by reviewing strikes by manufacturing workers in war-industries.

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Research Findings

Earnings inequality matters for understanding how family policies affect mothers’ employment

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June 11, 2020

Many rich countries provide paid parental leave and childcare to help mothers reconcile work and parenting. But, where are these policies most effective at keeping moms employed, and which moms respond most strongly to them? Not surprisingly, the answers to these questions are complex and contentious. 

In a recent study, we propose that a missing piece of the puzzle is a country’s level of earnings inequality, the size of the gap between those who earn a little and a lot. Earnings inequality helps explain who is most affected by family policies and why these same policies “work” in some countries, but not others. 

We found that when countries spend more on early childhood education and care (ECEC), mothers of young children are more likely to be employed. The effect is stronger for mothers without a college degree than for mothers who have completed college.

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Research Findings

Riders on the storm: Workplace solidarity among gig economy couriers in Italy and the UK

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June 4, 2020

Food delivery couriers have become an increasingly common sight across cities all over Europe and North America, as myriad food delivery platforms have proliferated in recent years as part of the growth of the global gig economy. Even during the global lockdown which followed the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, food delivery was among those essential activities which continued uninterrupted. Yet workers in this sector are mostly underpaid, with a precarious contractual situation, and subject to stringent forms of algorithmic control on their work activities.

These adverse circumstances are often seen as obstacles to workers’ mobilisation. Yet, food delivery has been one of the segments of the ‘gig economy’ where workers have started to organise to protest exploitative working conditions. How so? In a recent article, we investigate what explains the emergence of workers’ solidarity even in this hostile context through analysis of the mobilisation of food delivery couriers in the UK and Italy.

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Research Findings

Women’s Stalled Advancement: A Work-Family or a Work-Hours Problem?

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May 21, 2020

Women remain remarkably underrepresented in the partner ranks in professional service firms—as lawyers, accountants, and consultants—despite having gained parity with men at the associate level long ago.

This stalled advancement is surprising in light of companies’ efforts to improve the situation, often by means of well-intentioned work-life accommodation policies.  Time and again, however, researchers document how taking accommodations has the unintended effect of derailing women’s careers. Yet these remain the go-to solutions, and women’s careers continue to languish. 

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Research Findings

When gender diversity makes firms more productive


May 14, 2020

Does gender diversity make an organization more productive?

Some say yes, suggesting that gender diversity could lead to more innovative thinking and signal to stakeholders that an organization is well run. Others say no, pointing to group research showing that demographic diversity could lead to conflict and reduce team solidarity.

But while past research has been conflicting, most have looked at this question only within a single country or industry. This oversight got me thinking: could social context play a role? Social norms and regulatory context could affect people’s approaches to and attitudes toward diversity, which might, in turn, influence diversity’s organizational impact overall. 

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Research Findings

How organizational spaces contribute to disabling employees with impairments

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May 7, 2020
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Disabled people continue to be underrepresented in employment and to experience unequal career opportunities when they are employed. (While in the U.S., it is more common to use the term ‘people with disabilities’, we follow the U.K. tradition of using the term ‘disabled people’, which is used to particularly highlight the social origin of disability and the role of societal barriers in causing people with impairments to become disabled.) 

This problem has many different causes, including employers’ and co-workers’ stereotypes, different forms of discrimination, the way jobs are designed, and the lack of access to reasonable accommodations. In an article recently published in Organization, we focus on another element that can contribute to the disadvantaged labour market position of disabled employees: the disabling role of organizational spaces.

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Research Findings

Why British disabled workers fail at employment tribunals and what can be done

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April 30, 2020

It is common knowledge that disabled people have a tough time at work throughout the developed world. In Britain, in theory, the law (Equality Act 2010) protects disabled people against discrimination in employment, but in practice it is a different story. Yes, a British disabled person can take a case to an Employment Tribunal and sue the employer for discrimination, but if they do they are likely to lose. Looking at over 750 judgments in England and Wales between 2015 and 2017, we found that less than a fifth of all cases that went to the first stage (a preliminary hearing) were successful. At the final stage (a full hearing) a claimant is almost three times more likely to fail than to succeed.

Our research explores why this occurs and we found several reasons.  First, many judges make restrictive judicial decisions, for instance on the time period necessary to bring a claim (3 months). Woe betide the person who waits more than three months from when he/she experienced discrimination! Judges can extend the time limit where it is ‘just and equitable to do so’, but in practice they rarely do, choosing not to exercise their discretion. 

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