SOAS University of London

School of Law

Labour Law

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Full Year

This module will examine the crucial and fast-moving field of labour/employment law and employment-related equality law in the UK.

This area of law engages with many issues which will affect most people during their working lives. A central theme of the module is the question of what is or should be the main purpose of labour law – to protect workers by correcting inequalities of bargaining power or to support flexibility and competitiveness in the labour market? Other questions for consideration include: Why does the law intervene to protect some categories of workers but not others? What rights does a worker have if he or she is dismissed? Does equality in the workplace always mean treating people the same or does it sometimes require that difference be accommodated? The substantive areas covered will vary from year to year but will typically include: the contract of employment; regulation of dismissals; collective representation and the role of trade unions; human rights in the workplace; contentious issues in equality (or anti-discrimination) law, such as ‘affirmative’ or ‘positive’ action; equality law related to areas such as sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, and age; regulation of the ‘work-life’ balance.

The module will help students both to gain a deep understanding of the framework of UK labour/employment and equality law, and also to appraise the law on its own terms, and also from other points of view. The objective will be for students to gain insight into the substance and the mechanisms of labour law, but also to have an understanding of how these interact with social, economic and political developments.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • Critically analyse and evaluate the competing ideologies and the effect of political, social and economic policies on the legal principles underpinning collective and individual labour/employment law and employment-related equality law;
  • Exhibit a good understanding of the ideas, doctrines and framework sustaining labour and equality law;
  • Show an ability to critically appraise the law, not only on its own terms – for example for clarity, consistency and coherence – but also from other points of view;
  • Identify and critique the nature and scope of problems or disputes faced by employing enterprises and employees/workers that may be the subject of legal resolution or otherwise;
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the law in regulating industrial relations, individual employment relationships, human rights and equality in the workplace
  • Develop an ability to apply this knowledge to hypothetical problems;
  • Develop an awareness of areas of potential legal reform.

Students will also have developed their analytical, communication and research skills, as well as their capacity to understand and evaluate complex legal sources and literature. It is hoped that students will also develop a continuing interest in the study, research or practice of labour and equality law.

Method of assessment

  • Unseen written exam: 100%

Suggested reading

For a fictionalised perspective on the world of work, you’re recommended to watch one of the following films;

The module is not organised around a single text-book, so you should not treat any one book as a ‘one stop’ guide to the module. You will be provided with an outline for the entire module, containing full case and statute references and recommended reading for each weekly seminar, as well as a detailed handout at each seminar. You will be guided to the order in which to read, so the textbook may well be the last thing you should look at. Nonetheless, it would be helpful for you to consult one of the following general books:

  • Hugh Collins, Keith Ewing and Aileen McColgan, Labour Law (CUP, 2012) or
  • Simon Deakin and Gillian Morris, Labour Law (Hart, 6th edition, 2012)

In addition, Hugh Collins, Employment Law (OUP, 2010) which is available in the Library, provides a clear and succinct introduction to the subject.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules