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Flexible Forms of Employment

Flexibility of work through new forms of employment

In addition to so-called standard employment relationship, new forms of employment such as temporary agency work, fixed-term employment or solo self-employment are emerging . BAuA examines the opportunities and risks of atypical forms of employment for health.

A cashier in contact with a customer © Uwe Völkner, Fotoagentur FOX

The development of new forms of employment is a result, on the one hand, of economic changes that are linked to new requirements for companies. Companies are pursuing the strategy of flexibilisation and loosening of limitations of working hours, work types and employment. By doing this, they try to adapt to requirements of the market, among other things with regard to utilised capacity and specific customer wishes.

On the other hand, political deregulation of employment conditions promotes the distribution of various forms of atypical employment. Both the Employment Promotion Act of 1996, and the Hartz Legislation 2003/2004, expanded the scope for the flexibilisation of employment relationships.

Possible effects of atypical employment

In the political and scientific debate, the question arises whether atypical forms of employment are precarious occupations and whether these entail health impairments. The current state of research shows a rather ambivalent picture. For instance, numerous studies conclude that atypical forms of employment show an increased risk of precariousness compared to standard employment forms. However, it also shows that this risk depends on the form of atypical employment. The same situations can be observed for the question whether atypical forms of employment represent an increased health risk. The state of research shows considerable uncertainties, in particular, whether, and if so, which forms of atypical employment pose a threat to the health of which groups of persons.

Research needs and projects

The need for research on atypical forms of employment and health therefore arises at different levels. In general, there is a considerable need for research on individual atypical forms of employment such as on-demand work, marginal employment or solo self-employment. Research is also needed on the moderators and mediators of the associations between atypical forms of employment and health. Such studies could reveal which health effects are results of atypical forms of employment and which effects are results of the differentiated sample characteristics and the working conditions of the persons in atypical employment. Representative, high-quality longitudinal studies are also necessary regarding the effects of atypical forms of employment on health.

BAuA investigated between 2015 and 2017 in a project the stress factors and resources of solo self-employment and multiple employment. The results of the project are summarized in the report "Stressors, resources and demands of self-employment without personnel and multiple job holding" (in German).

Within the framework of the pilot project of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the GDA work programmes, BAuA also examined temporary agency work as a form of atypical employment. On this subject, there are action guidelines for companies hiring-out and borrowing employees as well as for employees themselves.

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