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Unit information: International Law of Labour and Social Rights in 2017/18

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Unit name International Law of Labour and Social Rights
Unit code LAWDM0136
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Novitz
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit is designed to introduce students to issues relating to the international protection of labour and social rights. The unit will examine controversies over the content and status of such rights. Students will also be expected to consider the significance of various international institutions deemed responsible for their protection, including the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Council of Europe (especially the European Social Charter) and the United Nations (including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). The unit will additionally consider the role and efficacy of other regulatory sources, such as international financial institutions, clauses in trade agreements, corporate codes of conduct and global framework agreements. The role of private as well as state actors will also be considered. A historical approach will be adopted, which is alert to the social, economic and political concerns that have emerged over the past century.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the course of study a successful student should be able to:

  • have a critical understanding of the debates regarding the content and status of labour and social rights
  • State and analyse the roles of different international organisations and institutions, which are engaged in their protection
  • trace and evaluate the evolution of legal treatment of such rights and significant changes in approach over the past century
  • critically evaluate different regulatory measures relating to enforcement and promotion of labour and social rights
  • identify and analyse critically the significance of civil society and other private actors in the protection of socio-economic rights

Students will be expected to actively participate in ten two-hour seminars, to discuss assigned readings, to answer questions relating to the assigned readings and to carry out further research to support their evaluation of the materials. Seminars will include some legal problem questions, based upon practical and current legal issues. The summative assessments will test the student’s ability to evaluate and carry out further research in important issues relating to both institutional and substantive aspects of international labour law and human rights law.

Teaching details

The contact hours for this unit will be 30 hours. This will usually take the format of: 8 lectures, 10 two-hour seminars and 2 assessment preparation and feedback sessions.

Assessment Details

Summative: a 2000 word essay (33%) will assess the candidate's ability to research a topic within the scope of this unit. The remaining Intended Learning Outcomes will be assessed in a 3 hour written examination (67%). Both assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit in the context of topics selected by the examiners.

Formative: students should do one formative assessment (this will usually be 1 x 1500 word essay).

Reading and References

There is no single recommended textbook. The following will be helpful sources for reading in this unit:

  • Blackett and Trebilcock (eds) Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law (Edward Elgar, 2015)
  • Bruun, Lorcher, Schomann and Clauwaert (eds), The European Social Charter and the Employment Relation (Hart, 2016)
  • Gearty and Mantouvalou, Debating Social Rights (Hart, 2009)
  • Maupain, The Future of the International Labour Organization in the Global Economy (Hart, 2013)
  • Novitz and Mangan (eds), The Role of Labour Standards in Development: From Theory to Sustainable Practice? (OUP, 2011)
  • Reideal, Giacca and Golay (eds), Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in International Law: Contemporary Issues and Challenges (OUP, 2014).
  • Rogowski, Reflexive Labour Law in the World Society (Edward Elgar, 2013)

Students will also be directed to online sources, journals articles and cases where relevant. These will be provided in their reading list which will be circulated before the course starts in the Autumn term.