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Employee Relationship

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  • September 2010
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The Employment Relationship in the Permeable Organisation

Jill Rubery, Mick Marchington, Damian Grimshaw and Hugh Willmott European Work and Employment Research Centre Manchester Business School University of Manchester

Paper prepared for the ESRC’s Second International Colloquium on the future of Work, Leeds September 2004

Address for correspondence:


Introduction The future of work is strongly tied to the future of the employment relationship. Some of the more extreme predictions of change in employment patterns predict indeed the end of the traditional employment relationship or the employer age (Robertson 1998, Rifkin 1985). At the other end of the spectrum there is also a strong lobby for the view that change has been exaggerated, that the internal employment relationship remains at the core of the labour market and that, contrary to predictions, the degree of employment insecurity (Auer and Cazes 2002; Doogan 2001) and the extent of non standard employment contracts has been exaggerated (Taylor 2003). The argument to be presented here, based upon research conducted within the framework of the future of work programme on changing organisational forms and the reshaping of work1 (see box 1), takes the employment relationship as a continuing core social relation, and indeed a yardstick against which alternative forms of production organisation will continue to be measured. The employment relationship needs, however, to be considered and analysed within a wider framework, which takes into account inter-organisational relations and does not regard employment as shaped primarily by intra-organisational conditions. Moreover, by focusing on changes that may be taking place on the employer side of the employment relationship, we may be able to unravel part of the paradox that the statistical data on the employment relationship, as measured by the characteristics of employees, such as their job tenure or their employment...

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