Labour Law, Vulnerability and the Regulation of Precarious Work

Labour Law, Vulnerability and the Regulation of Precarious Work

Lisa Rodgers

The shifting nature of employment practice towards the use of more precarious work forms has caused a crisis in classical labour law and engendered a new wave of regulation. This timely book deftly uses this crisis as an opportunity to explore the notion of precariousness or vulnerability in employment relationships. Its logical structure situates vulnerability in its developmental context before moving on to examine the goals of the regulation of labour law for vulnerability, its current status in the law and case studies of vulnerability such as temporary agency work and domestic work.

Chapter 4: Vulnerability and precarious work in the law

Lisa Rodgers

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, labour, employment law, law and society, legal theory


The aim of this chapter is to investigate the law and policy relating to precarious work and vulnerable workers at international, supranational and national levels. This law and policy will be positioned in relation to the possible theoretical perspectives on vulnerability introduced in the previous chapters of this book. In particular, there will be a comparison between the different geographical levels in terms of how far the law and policy aims towards selective, universalistic or mid-spectrum goals, and how far the law and policy suggest top-down or ‘bottom-up’ approaches to regulation. There will be a particular focus on the ‘fit’ of the law in these different jurisdictions with the vulnerability theory introduced in the previous chapters. It will be suggested that, at each geographical level, approaches which correspond to some degree with the vulnerable subject approach can be identified, but that a more comprehensive and systematic approach needs to be adopted if the precepts of vulnerability theory are to be properly realised. Of course, this analysis is complicated by a number of factors. First, the law and policy of the different institutions responsible for regulation (and particularly the regulation of precarious work) at different geographical levels has changed over time. These changes reflect different social and economic developments, but also represent the development of a changing theoretical focus within the institutions concerned.

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