Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Matthew W. Finkin and Guy Mundlak
Chapter 1: The rich panoply of sources of labor law: National, regional and international
To say that labor rights, obligations and entitlements as between employer and employee are many and varied is an understatement. The content and nature of these rights and duties may differ dramatically between countries and regions, public and private sectors, industry and firm, contemporary times and bygone centuries, to name just a few. The sources of labor law, though, can be corralled more readily into categories – collective and individual agreements, statutes, constitutions, international laws, custom and policy, codes and guidelines. These sources are addressed in this chapter, which focuses on the interventions of legislative and other kinds; into the unconstrained operation of the relationship of employee and employer in the market. Very few countries today have a totally unregulated employment relationship. Indeed the spectrum of the regulation ranges from minimal – perhaps enough to satisfy health and safety and other essentials – to very prescriptive. Within countries the place on the spectrum may have fluctuated, sometimes considerably, over the years with changes in thinking, such as free market or neo-liberal ideologies or modern socialist approaches. As with any market, and in a simplified model of the complexities of reality, if labor markets were to be entirely free of regulation, the outcomes would clearly vary considerably according to a range of factors.