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 7: Conclusions

Lisa Rodgers

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


The context of this book is the move in labour law to create and consider regulation for precarious work and precarious workers. This move has been spurred by the identification of a number of economic changes which present a real challenge to the traditional design and functions of labour law. For example, it is argued that labour law is traditionally based on the idea of an inequality of bargaining power between employees and employers in the labour market. This presumes a standard employment relationship under which an employee carries out full time, year round work for a single employer. However, in the ‘knowledge economy’, workers select flexible strategies which mean that relationships with employers are diffuse, or short term, and many have much more labour market power than ever before (based on the acquisition of skills which are transferable between employers). These relationships no longer correspond to the ‘standard employment relationship’ upon which labour law is based. Furthermore, ‘inequality of bargaining power’ is not present in all cases in these flexible relationships: some of these strategies make workers vulnerable (precarious workers) and others do not (gold-collar employees). It follows that labour law based on inequality of bargaining power in standard employment relationships is necessarily both over- and under-inclusive, and fails to capture those precarious workers in need of protection (who are not able to take the benefits of the flexibilisation of work relations).

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