Featherbedding definition

Featherbedding, also known as overmanning in the United Kingdom, refers to practices, policies and behaviours designed to increase the number of workers employed by an organisation. Methods used may be duplicating tasks that don’t need duplicating or deliberately making processes inefficient.

Featherbedding is typically union-driven as a way to prevent redundancies, often in response to new technology which is more efficient than people at performing a specific task. Demands that encourage featherbedding may form part of compromise agreements.

Although it’s often viewed pejoratively, featherbedding can – according to economists – help redistribute excess profits from organisations to employees who would otherwise be out of work or redundant.

In some industries the line between featherbedding and quality control is fine. Mandatory minimum staffing levels are seen by some as a guarantee of quality control and service provisions in the event of challenging circumstances, while others see it as featherbedding.


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