Why Do Employers Give Discretion?: Family Versus Performance Concerns Articles uri icon

publication date

  • January 2009

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 26


  • 1


  • 48

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0019-8676

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1468-232X


  • Using a large data set of Western European employees, I examine two sets of reasons behind employers' decisions to give discretion: performance concerns (firms give discretion in order to improve performance) and family concerns (firms wish to improve the employees' work&-family balance). I find more support for the former than for the latter. Discretion is positively related to the use of "high-performance" work practices and to employee position and ability, and is smaller in larger establishments, which suggests that loss of control matters to employers. Evidence about family concerns is less compelling. Female participation in the labor force has a positive effect on discretion over work schedules, but women have less discretion than men, and employees with small children do not have more discretion than other employees. Large and governmental organizations, which are expected to care more about work&-family balance, do not offer more discretion over work schedules than other types of organizations.