Labour Market Regulation in the Post-Crisis Era

This seminar explored the stock of post-crisis developments in labour regulation, focusing on the UK and the wider EU. This included discussions of labour legislation, the relative legal status of regular, temporary and informal workers, and changes affecting enforcement mechanisms. Additional questions around which much of the seminar was focused included:

  • How have regulatory challenges changed since the crisis? What are the new challenges?
  • How have changes in employment legislation and its enforcement altered labour market outcomes and conditions of work? Has weaker EPL improved the position of labour market ‘outsiders’?
  • How might employment protections be better designed and enforced? Where are the regulatory pressure points and who should apply the pressure? What role should government agencies, employers, unions and NGOs play?
  • Can contractual flexibility and employment security be simultaneously achieved?
  • What are the drivers of post-crisis regulatory change?
  • What roles do ideas, interests, power and economics play in the development of regulation?

The seminar began with an opening presentation by Jason Heyes (Sheffield), focusing on the varieties of labour market regulation that exist on a cross-national basis, and highlighting the ways in which these have changed over the course of the post-crisis period.


This was then followed by a talk given by Darryl Dixon, Director of Strategy at the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, on the role of the GLA and the way in which it has been influencing the changing labour market regulatory environment in the UK.

The second session of the day turned to consider European developments more widely. John Hurley, Research Managers in the Employment Unit of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions discussed the ways in which labour market regulation in the UK are affected and impacted upon by EU legislation. This was followed by a presentation of recent research by Nicola Countouris (UCL). The paper was titled, ‘Between the Rock and the Hard Place: EPL in Europe after the Crisis’, and highlighted the important challenges that faced the EU in its attempts to construct a more substantive for employment protection.

The third session subsequently turned to look at employment practices and attempts to improve labour market regulation in the so-called ‘informal economy’ of the United Kingdom. This began with a presentation of the work of Ian Clark (Leicester) and Trevor Colling (KCL), titled, ‘Informal Migrant Employment in Hand Car Washes in Leicester’. The presentation featured qualitative research into the experiences of low paid employees in the hand car wash industry in Leicester, highlighting some of the key problems faced by (especially) migrant labour in upholding their labour rights. This presentation was followed by a talk by Nikolaus Hammer (Leicester) on the way in which workplace regulation is being privatised in UK value chains.

In the final session a range of speakers explored some of the key consequences of regulatory reforms. Michael Brookes (Newcastle), Phil James (Middlesex) and Marian Rizov (Lincoln), considered the question of deregulation and how it impacted upon productivity, highlighting some important research findings that contrast with much of the public policy claims on the issue. Paul Latreille (Sheffield) and Rob Wapshott (Sheffield) considered the contrast between formal legal requirements regarding employment relations, and the context of informal employment relations.

Labour Market Regulation in the Post-Crisis Era
Halifax Hall, Sheffield, 04-05 May 2016


9.15-10.30. Session 1:

  • Jason Heyes, Welcome and Introduction
  • Thomas Hastings and Jason Heyes, Varieties of Regulation: Concepts, Policy and Practice
  • Darryl Dixon, An Overview of How the Role of the GLA and the Regulatory Environment of the UK are Changing

11.00-12.30. Session 2: European Developments

  • John Hurley, Labour Market Regulation in the EU Post-Crisis: An Overview
  • Nicola Countouris, Between the Rock and the Hard Place: EPL in Europe after the Crisis

1.30-3.00: Session 3: Regulation, Supply Chains and the Informal Economy

  • Ian Clark and Trevor Colling, Informal Migrant Employment in Hand Car Washes in Leicester
  • Nikolaus Hammer, Privatising Workplace Regulation in UK Value Chains

3.30-5.00: Session 4: Consequences of Regulatory Reforms

  • Michael Brookes, Phil James and Marian Rizov, Employment Regulation and Productivity: Is There a Case for Deregulation?
  • Paul Latreille and Rob Wapshott, Formal Legal Requirements in the Context of Informal Employment Relations

More information

Find out more about the ESRC Seminar Series: Understanding the Post-Crisis Landscape.