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Unit information: Employment Law in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Employment Law
Unit code LAWD30113
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Ford
Open unit status Not open

LAWD10008 Law of Contract OR LAWD10007 Foundations of Business Law.



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


This unit seeks to develop an understanding of important aspects of the legal regulation of working life. Employment law is potentially a very wide area, and the unit does not attempt to cover the whole field (impossible in the time available). Instead it focuses on certain topics, while giving you a solid introduction to the fundamental legal concepts.

The content of this unit changes each year in response to recent developments and topical issues. The principal issues on which we will concentrate this year, which are the main focus of both the Tutorials and the exam, are the following:

- the contract of employment and how the law treats agency workers, workers on zero-hours contracts and other categories of precarious workers; - the legal treatment of domestic workers, including migrant workers working legally and illegally and international and UK law on modern slavery; - statutory and common law protection relating to dismissal; - access to justice in employment tribunals, and the effect of recent reforms; - debates surrounding the right to strike in UK and international law, including those about the effects of the recent Trade Union Act; - protection against discrimination in the sphere of work owing to protected characteristics such as race, sex, disability, religious belief, sexual orientation and age; - the implications of Brexit for workers’ rights in the UK.

Employment law is much influenced by politics, and we will critically examine the policies which affect employment regulation, drawing on different perspectives (international human and social rights, economic and political justifications). While the actual effects of the law on working life is a central theme, we also analyse the reasoning in case-law in some areas.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:
• Know the criteria, principles and case-law for the identification of an 'employee' and a 'worker' under various statutes, and apply them to different factual circumstances.
• Summarise and discuss, where appropriate from a critical perspective, how the law protects categories of workers in precarious relationships, such as agency workers and those on zero-hour contracts.
• Describe, appraise and critically discuss the legal protection of domestic workers in the UK and of workers in conditions of modern slavery.
• Summarise and apply the law on dismissal, both statutory and contractual, drawing on relevant principles and case-law and analysing critically where necessary.
• Summarise, assess, and critically analyse how employment rights are upheld in the UK, including how recent reforms have affected access to employment tribunals and the effectiveness of legal rights.
• Summarise, apply and critically analyse the law on strikes, by reference to both domestic law and international legal norms.
• Understand and assess anti-discrimination and equality law as it relates to work, where relevant applying the legal principles and case-law to different factual circumstances.
• Describe, assess and critically analyse the implications of Brexit for the protection of workers in the UK.

Teaching details

23 one-hour lectures and 7 one-hour tutorials.

Assessment Details

1 x formative assessment (submitted for marking), plus additional informal formative feedback opportunities as indicated by the unit coordinator.

Formative assessments do not count towards final mark and can be optional.

1 x summative assessment: 1 x 3 hour exam in the Summer Exam Period. Summative assessments do count towards final mark.

The assessments will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

Text book. The recommended textbook is 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 tutorials in sufficient detail (e.g. tribunal fees, domestic workers, the Trade Union Act 2016), so do not rely on it alone.

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, though any collection of unannotated statutory materials (including photocopies of relevant statutes) may be brought into the examination room at the end of the year. We recommend the most recent editions of Blackstones Statutes on Employment Law or Butterworths Employment Law Handbook.