University of Limerick
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Annual hours working in Ireland : an exploration of its extent, and examination of the experiences of management, unions and workers

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posted on 2022-09-20, 10:14 authored by Lorraine White
Annual Hours (AH) is a way of organising working time by averaging hours and pay across the year rather than the week or month. A claimed advantage of AH agreements is that they potentially offer mutual gains to management and workers. The dynamics of mutual gains is explored with reference to both systems theory and bargaining theory. Despite predictions of widespread take-up of AH in the early 1980s, research in the UK showed limited diffusion of AH there. There was a dearth of research on the exact extent of AH in Ireland but existing studies also pointed to limited take-up. This study set out to establish the extent of AH in Ireland; to determine why companies introduce AH and to examine the extent to which trade unions oppose or support AH. The study further sought to examine whether AH impacts positively or negatively on workers and to explore the link between AH and workplace relationships. In addressing these key questions, the research aimed to establish the circumstances under which AH are likely to lead to success and the factors that contribute to or curtail the suitability of AH. Previous research on AH in Ireland suffered from a lack of information on the extent of AH, an overreliance on exemplar case studies, which examined limited factors and an absence of direct worker opinion. The methodologies employed for this research address these lacunae. The research adopted a multi-method approach and involved creating a database of AH agreements, detailed interviews with industrial relations actors, in-depth case studies and a survey of workers. The results are unique given that they are informed by direct worker opinions as this is the first time such a survey has been carried out. The key findings of the research are that AH indeed has the capacity to generate mutual gains for management and workers and, even more importantly, these gains are fundamental in driving and sustaining AH. Gains are only possible, however, under certain circumstances and this explains the limited take-up of AH in Ireland. The ability of AH to deliver gains depends on suitable structural factors. While the introduction of AH can be facilitated by relationship training or workplace partnership, these are not prerequisites to successful AH nor are they necessary to sustain AH. The evidence is that management benefit from AH due to improved productivity, stabilised costs and a reduction in grievances. The gains to workers from AH are stabilised salary, fewer hours at work and better work-life balance. Despite minor issues around AH for workers, mainly in relation to call-ins, the evidence is that an overwhelming majority of workers view AH as preferable to alternatives such as standard working hours and overtime



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Wallace, Joseph





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