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Research conducted by Dr Laura Langner at the University of Oxford’s Department of Sociology investigated changes in couples’ hourly wages once one partner enters work-hour flexibility.
The study found that once men started working flexible hours, their wives’ hourly wages increased significantly, particularly if they were mothers (14.2% after four years). The husband’s own hourly wages also increased by 7.4% over the following four years.
Dr Laura Langner, who authored the paper published in the journal Work, Employment and Society, said: “The results suggest that men may use flexible working hours as an alternative to part-time work to support their wives’ careers. The couple is in a win-win situation – both partners’ hourly wages increase when the man enters the flexible arrangement. It also tells us that employers can play an important role in supporting not just their employee’s but also the whole family’s work-family compatibility.”
The study analysed west German couples entering flexible work between 2003-2011 using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). It defines a flexible working hours contract as one in which the employee is able to determine when they work during the day and week.
The study found that the win-win situation only seemed to apply to couples in which the male partner started working flexible hours. If women started working flexible hours, they only benefited if they worked at least 30 hours. They did not benefit at all if they were mothers and lost out if they combine work-hour flexibility with working part time. Similarly, the positive effect for their non-flexible male partners was less pronounced.