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Flexible Forms of Employment

Flexibility of work through new forms of employment

In addition to the so-called standard employment relationship, new forms of employment are emerging such as temporary agency work, fixed-term employment or solo self-employment. 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, forms and employment. With this, they try to adapt to the requirements of the market, among other things with regard to utilised capacity and specific customer requirements.

On the other hand, the political deregulation of employment conditions promotes the distribution of the 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 research landscape 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 the risk is dependent on the form of atypical employment. The same situations can be observed for the question of 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 a result of atypical forms of employment and which effects are the result of the differentiated sample characteristics and the working conditions of the persons in atypical employment. Representative, high-quality longitudinal studies are also necessary for the effects of atypical forms of employment on health.

BAuA is currently investigating in a project the stress factors and resources of solo self-employment and multiple employment. The first results will be available in 2017.

Within the framework of the pilot project of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the GDA work programme, BAuA also examined the 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.