Employment practices, labour flexibility and the great recession: an automotive case study

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Most British firms adjusted employment practices in some way in response to the 2008 recession, though compared with previous recessions there were fewer redundancies than might have been anticipated given the severity of the downturn. While it has been suggested that employers may have utilised alternative flexibility strategies which ameliorated the need for downsizing, there are few studies of how employers responded as they did at the company level. This article presents an in-depth case study of an automotive parts manufacturer deeply affected by recession but which did not make large-scale redundancies. The study reveals how existing labour flexibility strategies, and especially numerical flexibility, helped the firm navigate recession. However, the study also reveals how staffing practices have been modified since the recession as part of an organisational attempt to improve efficiency. This is achieved by segmenting the workforce into three groups with different levels of certainty and security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-559
Number of pages23
JournalEconomic and Industrial Democracy
Issue number3
Early online date7 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • employment practices
  • flexibility
  • human resource management
  • management
  • recession


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