The paper examines the nature of modern work in Britain. It probes an apparent paradox. Classical sociological models of work were strongly influenced by the organizational features of factory production. These models appear decreasingly to epitomize modern factory work but increasingly to characterize large areas of contemporary service sector employment. This apparent paradox forms the cornerstone of the present analysis. The empirical focus is both on manufacturing and on three sub-sectors within services: call centres, retailing and logistics. The paper concludes that skilled work is increasing within modern factories yet non-skilled work is also increasing across a range of private service sector arenas of employment.