Centre for Law at Work Launched

By Dr Jennifer Collins, Lecturer in Law, and Prof Alan Bogg, Professor of Labour Law, Centre for Law at Work (University of Bristol Law School).

Centre for Law at Work Launch Event, Law School, University of Bristol © Bhagesh Sachania

On Thursday 28 June the Bristol Centre for Law at Work was launched. The Centre is based in the Law School, with Professors Alan Bogg and Tonia Novitz its founding Directors. It is supported by scholars from across the Law School who will come together to reflect upon legal issues relating to work and its regulation. Adopting an inter-disciplinary approach, the Centre aims to advance scholarly analysis of work-related issues, and to generate innovative perspectives. In so doing, it aims to shape policy at national, transnational and international levels using evidence-based interventions to influence current political debates. Centre members have already made high profile contributions to the recent Taylor Review of modern working practices.

A very successful launch of the Centre was held at the close of the first day of Professor Alan Bogg and Dr Jennifer Collins’ workshop, Criminality at Work. Professor Mark Freedland, opening the Centre, commented on Bristol’s global reputation in work-related legal scholarship. He was also deeply impressed by the excitement and enthusiasm across the University for the objectives and activities of the Centre for Law at Work.  Professor Paddy Ireland, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, commented that the Law School has attracted fantastic interdisciplinary scholars who will contribute to the work of the Centre. The Centre will build links across the wider Faculty, based around the Faculty Research Group on Work. It will also connect with a global network of academic centres through its formal affiliation with the Labour Law Research Network.

One of the first activities of the new Centre has been to host a workshop which focuses on the important and neglected disciplinary interface between criminal law and labour law. The workshop attracted leading scholars from around the world.  The edited collection, Criminality at Work (eds. Alan Bogg, Jennifer Collins, Mark Freedland and Jonathan Herring) brings together a leading group of international scholars to examine when, how and why the criminal law intervenes in work relations. It is due to be published by Oxford University Press in 2019, and it will be a landmark volume examining the role of the criminal law in regulating labour markets from a systematic theoretical perspective. Two well-known examples of this of late are the implementation of modern slavery legislation via the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which criminalises oppressive employment practices associated with the employment of vulnerable workers by employers. The Immigration Act 2016 deploys criminal law to regulate the employment of irregular migrants, using a range of criminal law measures to criminalise the actions and omissions of both workers and employers.

There are lesser-known examples, too. These include the role of the criminal law in regulating bullying and harassment at work, picketing and protest, accessory liability in supply chains, as well as criminal regulation in the care and medical sectors. In this volume we argue that the ebb and flows of criminalisation in the work relation deserves careful scrutiny, given the potential for coercive state interference and to prevent its normalisation without clear justification.

This event promises to be the first of many successful events held by the new Centre for Law at Work, which will cement its position as a world-leading centre of academic excellence attracting scholars from around the world.

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