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Unit information: Individual Employment Rights in 2018/19

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Unit name Individual Employment Rights
Unit code LAWDM0021
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Bogg
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit deals with the English law governing the individual employee's relationship with his or her employer, although comparisons will be made with other jurisdictions where appropriate. Not every area of individual employment law is covered – an impossible task – so the focus is on the subjects covered in the seminars. The aim throughout is to set employment law in its wider social, economic and political context.

We begin by looking at current policy issues in employment law, before examining the legal treatment of agency workers and those on zero hours contracts. We consider the contractual nature of employment, the rights and duties imposed on each party, and how terms can be varied. The unit deals with the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the regulation of working time as examples of statutory regulation of work. Other areas explored are the termination of employment; statutory protections arising on redundancies, reorganisations and transfers of undertakings; how human rights affect the working relationship. Discrimination in the field of work is dealt with in detail, looking at discrimination owing to sex, race and other protected characteristics (e.g. religious discrimination and its intersection with sexual orientation discrimination). Finally we will examine the topical issue of how the employment tribunal system, central to how most employment rights are enforced, operates.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student is expected to be able to summarise, explain and engage critically with legal and policy developments affecting the rights of the individual employee or worker. Students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of, and the ability to apply and analyse critically the following areas:

  • Recent and current policies on employment law
  • employment and worker status
  • the legal treatment of agency workers and those on zero hours contracts
  • the contract of employment, and how terms may be varied
  • collective bargaining
  • statutory intervention in wages and working time
  • the law relating to dismissals
  • regulation of redundancies, reorganisations and transfers of undertakings
  • how international human rights instruments affect UK employment law
  • equality and anti-discrimination law in the work sphere in the UK
  • how the tribunal system upholds rights, and the effect of recent reforms.

Students should conduct and demonstrate their own independent reading and research on at least some of these topics. As well as analysing and applying the law to factual scenarios for the purpose of problems, students should be able to evaluate the policies behind, and effects of, individual employment rights in terms of their implications for workers, employers, the government and the wider society.

Teaching details

This unit is taught by way of 20 lectures (approx.), 10 two-hour seminars and 2 assessment preparation and feedback sessions. Lectures are delivered jointly to students on the related undergraduate unit.

Assessment Details

Summative: a 2000 word essay (33%) and 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

Text books. The recommended textbooks are:

  • A.C.L.Davies, Employment Law (Pearson, 2015). This is a new text book which we think is more accessible than the ones used in previous years. But it does not cover fully some of the topics we deal with in the seminars in detail (e.g. tribunal fees), so do not rely on it alone.
  • Simon Deakin and Gillian Morris, Labour Law, Sixth Edition (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2012). This is much more comprehensive and detailed; use it if you are unclear on issues, for a fuller understanding, or you think Davies gives insufficient analysis of key issues.

Do not rely only on your textbook: employment law is constantly changing and you need to be aware of the latest developments.

Statutory materials. You will find it very useful to have a handbook of statutory materials because labour law is now principally based on statutes, statutory instruments and EU Directives. New legislation is introduced all the time, so it is important that you buy the latest edition. We recommend the most recent edition of:

  • Blackstone’s Statutes on Employment Law (Oxford University Press)