Family comes first or open all hours?: How low paid women working in food retailing manage webs of obligation at home and work

Kathryn Backett-Milburn, Laura Airey, Linda McKie, Gillian Hogg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper draws on qualitative findings from a study exploring work-life balance issues amongst female employees within food retailing. Whilst female employment is fundamental to this sector, there is limited evidence on employees' experiences of reconciling relatively low-paid work and the particular demands of food retailing with domestic and caring responsibilities. Managing competing discourses and demands at home and work is a feature of many women's lives. For those in low-paid jobs, with fewer material resources to fall back on, such webs of obligation, often stretching over the lifecourse, may be particularly difficult to navigate or escape. In food retail work, as in caring/domestic emergencies, timeframes may be tight and demands made on workers at short notice and outwith the standard working day.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-496
Number of pages23
JournalSociological Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2008



  • food retail work
  • family
  • low wage earners
  • women in employment

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