Work, Organisation and Employment Relations Research Centre

Our mission is to promote the growth of decent work and decent workplaces through cutting-edge research and stakeholder engagement.

WOERRC comprises researchers from across the Management School and the Faculty of Social Sciences who have interests relating to work, employment and the labour market. The aim of the centre is to generate and disseminate high-quality research that has the potential to inform and shape academic debates and influence policy and practice. WOERRC facilitates collaboration between researchers from different academic fields and disciplines and in so doing aims to promote theoretical and methodological innovation, provide fresh analytical insights and strengthen the evidence base.

Most of the research activities of the centre are organised under three priority themes, each of which has a theme leader who is responsible for developing their theme:

  1. Regulation of the employment relationship and labour market (Prof Jason Heyes)
  2. Global value chains, labour and the labour process (Dr Kirsty Newsome)
  3. Labour movements, voice and vulnerability (Prof Pauline Dibben)

There are four overarching concerns that cut across all of our themes:

  1. Identifying and critically evaluating connections between socio-economic phenomena, government policy, employer practices, organisational change and the characteristics of work, employment and employment relations.
  2. Identifying the causes of decent work deficits within workplaces, industries and countries.
  3. Identifying potential means by which the extent and sustainability of decent work might be increased.
  4. The application, refinement and further development of theory in all of our core areas

We address these issues by engaging with employers, trade unions, policy makers, practitioners and international organisations, and by producing research that has clear potential to inform policy and practice.

Our Research: Priority Themes

Regulating work and employment

Led by Professor Jason Heyes, the Regulating Work and Employment stream seeks to advance understanding of the creation, operation and consequences of different forms of regulation relating to work and employment. It examines changes in labour policies, particularly those relating to employment rights and employment protection legislation, and the manner in which policies are implemented and enforced in different national contexts.

Recent research projects have focused on:

  1. Changes in employment protection legislation and social protection in the UK and across the EU.
  2. The impact of labour regulations and employment protection legislation on the behaviour of small businesses.
  3. The scope and consequences of public administration activities in the fields of work and employment (i.e. national labour administration systems).
  4. The causes and consequence of work in the informal economy and policy measures aimed at improving standards in the informal economy and transitions from informality to formality.
  5. The consequences of recent changes in the UK’s regulatory environment, particularly in relation to the reform of the Employment Tribunals system.
  6. The adoption and consequences of new techniques of grievance handling, particularly workplace mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution and conflict management (including systems).
  7. The causes and consequences of underemployment.
  8. New approaches to regulation and comparative analysis of regulation.

Research within this stream seeks to advance understanding of the creation, operation and consequences of different forms of regulation. It is also concerned with the relationship between the economy and the content of economic and social policy, the impact of austerity and ‘financialisation’, and the role of supra- and international organisations, such as the European Commission, IMF and ILO.

Labour movements, voice and vulnerability

Professor Pauline Dibben leads research on Labour Movements, Voice and Vulnerability in advanced and emerging economies.

Research within this stream includes investigation of worker voice and outcomes in unionised and non-unionised workplaces. Our research on labour movements includes theoretical development and empirical studies on the role of trade unions in Europe, Africa and Latin America. In considering vulnerability in the workplace, the research takes account of the institutional context and power relations within the workplace and examines new forms of precarious work and labour market risk, evaluating how work might be impacted by gender, age and disability. Research in this stream also assesses whether efficiency, competitiveness and high performance can be achieved while simultaneously providing positive outcomes for workers in relation to fairness, well-being and employment security.

Current research is concerned with:

  1. The changing role of trade unions in Europe, Africa and Latin America.
  2. Conflict resolution, with a particular focus on mediation techniques and other forms of alternative dispute resolution and conflict management.
  3. The extent and causes of unequal opportunities and outcomes experienced by workers who differ in respect of gender, age and disability.
Global value chains, labour and labour process theory

Dr Kirsty Newsome leads the Global Value Chains (GVCs), Labour and Labour Process Theory stream.

The analysis of GVCs has traditionally neglected the role of labour and the labour process in international production and service networks. The research theme is striving to explore the position of workers and the changing nature of work within GVCs. Linking in with WOERRC’s overall mission to promote ‘decent work and decent workplaces’, this research theme is analyzing the significance of national and global value chains for the transformation of work and employment conditions.

The research is exploring this macro theme through the analysis of four dimensions of ‘labour’ and employment:

  1. The ‘Labour of Movement’ is focusing on the labour process of workers in global logistics, warehousing and parcel delivery. This work is addressing the political economy of the connected spheres of production, circulation and consumption.
  2. Forced labour and trafficking in global supply chains. Here the analytical focus is the relationship between dominant firms and their sub-ordinate suppliers.
  3. Supply chain accounting and employment practices in the automotive and textile industries in South Africa and Brazil. This ESRC funded project is interdisciplinary in nature, and engages with institutional theory and debates around global value chains, in addition to addressing concerns around vulnerable work.
  4. The politics of corporate social responsibility, workplace regulation and labour standards.
  5. Global Value Chains, Labour and Labour Process Theory: This theme brings together social science researchers from across the Faculty with different theoretical perspectives and approaches in order to explore these issues and develop a systematic programme of cutting-edge research and theory building.

In addition to our priority themes, WOERRC has a number of research concerns that are not directly related to the main themes, but which connect with them and have the potential to enhance them. These include:

  • Organisational theory, organisational change and the evolution of organisations
  • Critical evaluation of methodology and research methods