Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the role flexible work arrangements (FWA) play in diversity policies, and the reasons for/barriers to their implementation.

Design/methodology/approach – Based on qualitative case study research in four large multinational service companies. Primary data were collected through senior and line-manager interviews and questionnaires.

Findings – The research shows FWA are an integral part of diversity implementation but organisational imperatives, particularly management concerns about client interaction, constrain the acceptance of FWA and therefore restrict their impact as a means to greater diversity. As FWA have different effects (being available “remotely” vs not being available) their acceptability is not inclusive, but dependent on job character and level.

Research limitations/implications – Further research is needed on the difficulties of implementing FWA and, particularly, its impact on career progression. The prioritisation of business imperatives over social arguments, such as client needs and staff availability, with its impact on the acceptability of FWA and hence ultimate enhancement of diversity deserves more attention.

Practical implications – This paper shows that company discourse with its unambiguous business focus highlights the shortcomings of relying upon FWA to bring about a changed climate for diversity.

Originality/value – Importantly issues are explored which have not featured significantly in the literature to date, especially the role of clients/customers and differences in the effect of FWA as elements in managerial perspectives on the acceptability of FWA, which can act as constraints to its use for diversity enhancement.

Attributions: Bingham, C., Michielsens, E. and Clarke, L. 2014. Managing diversity through flexible-work arrangements: management perspectives. Employee Relations. 36 (1), pp. 49-69.

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