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Unit information: Employment Law in 2021/22

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. Novitz
Open unit status Not open



LAWD10008 Law of Contract and LAWD20023 Law and Policy of the European Union I

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

Description including Unit Aims

This unit seeks to develop an understanding of some 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 in the coming year, which are the main focus of both the tutorials and the end of year examination, are the following:

  • The contract of employment and how the law treats workers on zero-hours contracts and other categories of precarious workers, including those in the ‘gig’ economy;
  • The legal treatment and exploitation of migrant workers, both those working legally and illegally, including the concept of ‘modern slavery’ and the doctrine of illegality;
  • Statutory and common law protections relating to dismissal;
  • Access to justice in employment tribunals, and the effect of recent reforms;
  • Debates and policies surrounding the representation of workers in collective bargaining and the right to strike in UK law;
  • Protection against discrimination with a focus on racial discrimination and harassment; and
  • The implications of Brexit for workers’ rights in the UK, using working time as a case study.

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 and statutory proposals 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 those on zero-hour contracts;
  • Describe, appraise and critically discuss the legal protection of migrant 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 collective representation in collective bargaining and relating to 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, with reference to the case study of working time.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Information

1 x summative assessment: Timed Open Book Assessment with a specified word count (100%)

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


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. LAWD30113).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.