Policy, Practice and Institutions
Edited by Jason Heyes and Ludek Rychly
Chapter 9: Labour inspection systems: strengthening enforcement in times of crisis
Labour legislation constitutes a unique branch of the legal system. It establishes the regulation of social matters, backed by specific institutions with mechanisms for rule-based enforcement through the intervention of administrative bodies armed with specific functions of supervision and control. This is not a new phenomenon. From the nineteenth century onwards, insufficient implementation of labour law led to the extension of the scope of administrative supervision, even after workers won the legal right to bring a court case on the grounds of non-compliance with labour standards. This practice became so widespread that the 1919 ILO Constitution specified that each member State ‘must organize a labour inspection service in order to guarantee compliance with laws and regulations that protect workers’. Since then, labour inspection has become an essential part of labour administration, performing the fundamental function of enforcing labour law and promoting compliance. Given the importance of this function, the act of inspecting transcends particular interests and is considered a matter of general public interest and a tool of governance.