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Labour, law and technology


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • ConvenorMaria Tzanakopoulou
  • Tutor: Bernard Keenan
  • Assessment: a 4000-word summative essay (95%) and online participation in group work and discussion (5%)

Module description

From the rapidly growing gig economy and the digital platforms to mass surveillance of the workforce through artificial intelligence, this module examines the disintegration and reshaping of the labour relation as well as legal responses to the new challenges. Labour law and labour protection have been facing challenges since their very inception. How is the law to balance a relation that is by design unfair - that between the labourer and the employer? The employer has a natural interest in maximising production and profit, as well as in directing, controlling and disciplining the workforce. The labourer, on the other hand, has a right to decent working conditions, from working hours and fair wages to protection from dismissal. With the balance conventionally tipping in favour of the employer, we are called upon to explore the new opportunities, challenges and changing patterns that technology introduces into the tangible and digital workspace.

Indicative module syllabus

  • What is labour law and why is it afraid of technology?
  • The labour relation, division of labour and the means of production
  • Employed v self-employed - the binary division
  • The Invisible Employer - platform-owning companies as employers
  • Employer control and supervision in the gig economy
  • Employer control and supervision in the work space - human rights at work
  • Dismissal and redundancies
  • Collective labour rights
  • To accelerate or not?

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the historic and systematic purpose of labour law in advanced high-income economies and the concept of the labour relation, and critically evaluate the challenges introduced by technology in practical modalities
  • evaluate new technological challenges in original and complex situations in light of modern and traditional theories of labour law
  • describe and critically engage with proposed policy/legal solutions to the challenges and offer novel approaches to legal problems at a systematic polycontextual level
  • critically address a key issue in an area of the course, or an area that you can persuasively introduce, in the form of an essay.