The Economic and Social Research Council Project, with which this working paper is associated, highlights the position of organisations as a crucial mediating influence between the macro, global environment on the one hand and changing social systems on the other. The principal focus is on 'new' forms of organisation and types of contractual relationships. Examples that illustrate the changing forms and boundaries of the 'firm' include franchises, buyouts and executive agencies. Substantive changes have also occurred in the structure of established forms of organisations such as privatisations in the public sector, and 'down-sizing' and strong budgetary devolution in the private sector.

There is a burgeoning literature on both the changing nature of work and employment and on the changing nature of organisations. Both sets of literature, from different starting points and perspectives, have failed to deal adequately with the links between changing organisational forms and changing employment relationships.The aim of this paper is to address the missing links in these various literatures, identifying key areas where the permeable nature of organisations and the development of multi-employer relationships introduce new problems and ambiguities both into the employment relationship and into the potential gains and 'efficiencies' to be derived from partnerships and networks.

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