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labour lawthe body of legislation and judicial decisions concerned with INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, TRADE UNIONS and employment. Labour law has two main forms:
- individual labour law, relating to the rights and obligations of individual employees.
From the 1960s onwards the volume of law in this area has grown considerably, partly as a response to European Union legislation. The Employment Act 1975 was particularly important as it established the right not to be unfairly dismissed (see UNFAIR DISMISSAL). Other important legislation in this era proscribed DISCRIMINATION on grounds of race or sex. In the 1980s individual rights were weakened somewhat. For example, the qualifying period for the right not to be unfairly dismissed was extended. However, legislation by the European Union counterbalanced this trend to some extent, and in the 1990s employees' rights in the areas of dismissal, MATERNITY RIGHTS, PARENTAL LEAVE and WORKING TIME were widened and strengthened;
- collective labour laws, relating to the activities of TRADE UNIONS and the conduct of INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS and COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. Traditionally, the law has not played an important role in industrial relations, and agreements made between unions and employers are not legally binding (see VOLUNTARISM). However, industrial relations has become increasingly subject to legal intervention in recent years (see JURIDIFICATION). In the 1970s a statutory union recognition procedure was established (subsequently repealed) by the Employment Act 1975. This law also required that employers consult over REDUNDANCIES and pass to unions information relevant to collective bargaining (see DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION). In the 1980s and 1990s the conduct of STRIKES, TRADE UNION IMMUNITIES, SECONDARY ACTION, and the CLOSED SHOP were all the subjects of legislation, much of it aimed at eradicating what the government saw as trade union abuses. Recently a new STATUTORY UNION RECOGNITION PROCEDURE was introduced. Whilst union action continues to be highly regulated, labour law is now seen to be less hostile to unions than it was in the 1980s and 1990s. See MINIMUM WAGE.