Understanding Society Research Conference, 24-26 July 2013, University of Essex
July 24, 2013
Using previously unexploited data from the BHPS on time scheduling in the employment and household contexts, we investigate the effect of flexible working on couples’ coordination of their daily work time schedules in the UK. This question is of paramount importance to policymakers considering the effects of extensions to flexible working, yet the economics literature provides relatively little theoretical and empirical evidence on it. Building on previous models of synchronous time use, we present a simple conceptual framework for analysing the effect of flexible work on time coordination in a labour market with work hours constraints. In the empirical analysis, we consider three distinct dimensions of flexible working: flexibility of daily start and finish times (flexitime), flexibility of work times over the year (annualised hours), and generalised control of working hours. We find that when the woman in the couple has flexitime there is greater spouse synchronization in daily working times. The effect is driven by couples with dependent children, who arguably value synchronization most. In contrast, when the man in the couple has flexitime at work it does not change the amount of spouse synchronization. Broader control over working hours, especially by the male partner, is also associated with more synchronous working time, among couples both with and without children. In contrast, consistent with the longer time span of flexibility, we find no evidence that annualised hours increase synchronous time on a daily basis.