International Review of Sociology, 24(2) pp 207-224

Previous research on trends in the quality of work in Britain was carried out in a period marked by long-term growth and increasing prosperity. Although often taken as an exemplar case of a ‘liberal’ regime, the implications of an emphasis on deregulation and work-force flexibility for employees’ quality of work are arguably less serious when labour markets are tight and the market power of employees may oblige employers to be concerned about the retention and commitment of the work-force. The prolonged economic crisis that followed the economic recession of 2008–2009, however, provides a more severe test of the implications of a relatively deregulated employment regime for employee welfare. It is precisely under conditions of high unemployment and weak bargaining power that it could be expected to facilitate a sharp reassertion of employer prerogatives both to shed labour and to restructure work processes. Did the economic crisis, then, lead to major changes in work and employment conditions in the UK?