Labour Law, Vulnerability and the Regulation of Precarious Work
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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.
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Chapter 3: The goals of the regulation of labour law for vulnerability

Lisa Rodgers


This chapter builds on Chapter 2 which considered the ‘context’ of vulnerability. Chapter 2 explained how the context of vulnerability may be seen as ‘external’ or ‘internal’ (personal). Vulnerability may be seen as created by economic, political or social pressures acting on the subject of labour, or can be viewed as starting from the subject of labour itself. It was explained that this characterisation was not theoretically neutral; rather different characterisations of the nature of vulnerability attach to different theories of labour law. For example, classical labour law theory views vulnerability as created by the operation of the capitalist system and attaching to all workers, whereas other labour law theories explain vulnerability as a particular economic moment and associate that vulnerability specifically with the problems of precarious work. The aim of this chapter is to delve more deeply into the labour law theories introduced in Chapter 2 and to explain what the characterisation of vulnerability in these different theories means for the way in which solutions to labour problems are designed and developed. Four broad theoretical characterisations will be discussed in this chapter in line with the divisions of the previous chapter. The first characterisation will be classical labour law theory. The second characterisation will be that couched in the language of economic efficiency. The third will be the theory of social law, and the final characterisation of the regulation of the work relation introduced in this chapter is that based on the ‘vulnerable subject’ of labour law.

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