Dr Minjie Cai

Dr Minjie Cai

Department of Management
Associate Professor in Human Resource Management

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Minjie Cai is an Associate Professor in Human Resource Management. Her research primarily focuses on how employment policies, worker representation and managerial practices shape the nature and experiences of work in the context of change, such as crisis management, shifting labour regimes and transitional organisations and economies.



  • PhD in Organisation Studies, Cranfield University, 2016
  • MRes Management and Social Science, King’s College London, 2011
  • BA(Hons) Business Administration, University of Central Lancashire, 2010


Dr Minjie Cai is an interdisciplinary scholar in the sociology and political economy of work, employment relations, and human resource management. She completed a PhD in Organisation Studies at Cranfield School of Management after graduating from King’s College London with a Master of Research degree. 

Minjie frequently deploys sociological and critical theories to examine inequalities issues in contemporary organisations, drawing attention to both individual and collective struggles. Her recent projects thread together interdisciplinary lenses in investigating the production and reproduction of these struggles. 

Minjie has published on the subject areas related to industrial relations, work and employment. Her latest work contributes to the conceptualisation of extreme work and the empirical understanding of representation on workplace health and safety.



MSc in Human Resource Management (Module: Managing Equality and Diversity)

Postgraduate supervision

Minjie is experienced in supervising PhD research and would consider prospective PhD supervision on the following subject areas, specifically in relation to frontline services work and emotional labour.

  • Sociology of work: skills and value creation/extraction in the labour process; organisational and technological change; gender and race representations.
  • Industrial relation: resistance and activism at work; labour organisation in response to deregulation, informalisation and precarity; trade unionism and the state.
  • Human resource management: EDI policies and practices; work design and organisation; intersectionality and career progression.


Health, safety and racism in the workplace

This project investigated experiences of black frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing a survey and focus group interviews with of black workers and representatives, the research focused on the role unions have played and could play as well as. how black workers feel that their health and safety can best be represented. The findings identified potential barriers to representation and how the Trade Union Congress can support a new generation of black health and safety representatives.

Project length: December 2021 – April 2022

Funder: Trade Union Congress (£14,902)

The role of technology in the changing nature of retail and logistic work

The project offers a labour market analysis and includes interviews with workers in retail, distribution and logistics. The labour market analysis examines the composition of workforces and labour market flux during the COVID-19 pandemic. The interviews reflect the lived experiences of the changing nature of work, examining terms and conditions, the impact of automation and technology on work, and workplace representation. With evidence of post-COVID-19 occupational and sectoral transitions, this is a key moment to explore the changing nature and content of work, and potential renegotiated divisions of labour on the basis of gender, age and race and ethnicity.

Project length: September 2012-April 2022

Funder: Trade Union Congress, UK (£9,900)

Work and crisis management on supermarket frontline in the COVID-19 pandemic

This research examined how supermarket frontline managers and employees perceive and experience crisis management and organisational change amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, supermarket frontline work intensifies with additional health and safety risk, changing customer demands, and new regulations during the pandemic. These challenges have pertinent implications for frontline employees whose contractual status entails 'forced availability' and frontline managers who face competing demands of performance targets, flexible workforce control, and organisational policies that evolve with the pandemic development.

Project length: April 2021- October 2022

Funders: British Academy/Leverhulme Trust (£9,041.60)

The role of health and safety representatives in the COVID-19 pandemic

The project explores the role of trade union health and safety representatives in the UK and changes to representative structures governing workplace and organisational Occupational Health and Safety during COVID-19, drawing upon a survey of UK Trade Union Congress (TUC) Health and Safety representatives, as well as case studies of 12 organisations in eight key sectors.

Project length: November 2020 – November 2021

Funder: The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) COVID-19 Grant (£118,302.85)

Research into COVID-19 workplace safety outcome

This research highlights the weakness of the UK's occupational health and safety infrastructure exposed by the COVID‐19 pandemic. Utilising a political economy perspective, it captures the critical role of workplace union safety representatives in mitigating risk and contesting the expropriation of

health and recommodification of labour, specifically inadequate sick pay.

Project length: April 2020 – February 2021

Funder: Trade Union Congress (£19,603.41)

Other activities

Dr Minjie Cai has been elected as the Co-Chair of the Human Resource Management Special Interest Group at the British Academy of Management between 2023-2025. 

Minjie is also a member of Work in the Global Economy Editorial Advisory Board and Philosophy of Management Editorial Board. 

She holds certification as an Academic Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a Fellow at the Advanced HE.


Moore, S., Cai, M., Ball, C., & Flynn, M. (2023). 'Health and Safety Reps in COVID-19—Representation Unleashed?', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(8), 5551.

Cai, M. (2023). 'Extreme work', Encyclopedia of Human Resource Management (pp. 125–126), Edward Elgar Publishing.

Cai, M. (2023). 'Occupational health and safety', Encyclopedia of Human Resource Management (pp. 279–280), Edward Elgar Publishing.

Jameson, J., Rumyantseva, N., Cai, M., Markowski, M., Essex, R., & McNay, I. (2022). 'A systematic review and framework for digital leadership research maturity in higher education', Computers and Education Open, 3, 100115.

Cai, M., Moore, S., Ball, C., Flynn, M., & Mulkearn, K. (2022). 'The role of union health and safety representatives during the COVID-19 pandemic: A case study of the UK food processing, distribution, and retail sectors', Industrial Relations Journal, 53(4), 390–407.

Cai, M, Velu, J., Tindal, S., Bennett, S. (2021) ‘It’s Like a War Zone’: Jay’s Liminal Experience of Normal and Extreme Work in a UK Supermarket during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Work, Employment and Society. 35(2), 386-395.