Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Matthew W. Finkin and Guy Mundlak
This chapter is concerned with the evolution of legal protection for workers who lose their jobs. The regulation of job loss has become one of the most contested areas of labour law. But it was not always so. At various points during the twentieth century, most developed countries introduced laws that constrained employment being terminated in certain circumstances, stipulated particular procedures to be followed, and/or mandated the payment of compensation to affected workers. As we will explain, these developments inspired the creation of international labour standards on job loss that remain in effect today. Those standards, and the domestic laws that reflect them, can apply in relation to both personal dismissals, where employment is terminated in response to concerns about the conduct or capacity of an individual worker; and economic dismissals (redundancies), where an employer determines that a particular job should no longer be performed by anyone, or reduces the number of workers hired to perform a type of work. Since the economic crisis of the 1970s, however, a fierce debate has developed over the sustainability and value of employment protection laws. Over the ensuing years, labour law has struggled to coexist with what some call the ‘uncomfortable’ requirements of the economy. During that time, existing laws have been immobilised or ‘frozen’, in the sense that worker protections have not been extended or further developed.
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