Research Article

Controlling the clock: Working hours in the UK hotel sector


The hotel sector is synonymous with working hours that are long, unpredictable and result in poor outcomes for employees. Arguably, they constitute one of the most significant features of the employment relationship, yet little research exists to explore the factors influencing the scheduling of hours and the degree of control employees can exert on their pattern of work. This article aims to help fill this gap by exploring what shapes employee working hours and the extent to which each side of the employment relationship exercises control. Qualitative research was conducted with purposive sampling used to identify and interview employees in the UK hotel sector, combined with managers responsible for budgetary control over labour and for setting work schedules. The findings suggest that a combination of customer demand patterns and the choice by employers to minimise labour costs effectively reduce employees’ ability to control or challenge work schedules. The lack of employee voice is structured into the employment relationship, depriving workers of a healthy work-life balance, their ability to take breaks and legally entitled pay.

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