Regulating (in)formalised business and employment practices: The state as a new HR manager?

This is a Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC) seminar taking place at Leeds University Business School on Wednesday 6 June 2018

Whilst most work in the British economy supports formalized employment relations estimates suggest that between 9% to 12% of GDP is generated in organizations deploying informalized business and employment practices, an economy that supports two and a half million workers and which generated £6.2 billion in 2013 (Ipsos Mori, 2012:12, Schneider, 2015, Taylor, 2017:80). The research question we address is how is the reaction of the state to informalization in work and employment central to the contemporary political economy of employment relations? Recent examples of the politicization of informalized work and employment relations include the formation of the gangmaster’s labour abuse authority (GLAA), the creation of the independent anti-slavery commissioner (IASC), the wider wrap around role of the director of labour market enforcement (DLME) and the announcement in April 2018 of a Parliamentary inquiry into hand car washes an area of significant potential for labour market exploitation (Parliament, 2018).

We conceptualize and theorize features of the contemporary political economy of employment relations to provide a broader context for informalization and the tendency to informalization of work and employment. We then draw on primary source empirical material on hand car washes and relate this to the manner in which state agencies, the GLAA and the offices of the DLME seek to regulate informalized employment practice in particular sectors such as hand car washing and nail bars. The primary source material gathered at the DLME and the GLAA is particularly innovative where we found an espoused regulatory framework that conflates a law and order agenda with one that promotes the protection of victims.

See presentation slideshere.


Ipsos Mori (2012) ‘Non-compliance with the national minimum wage, London, Ipsos mori.

Parliament (2018)

Schneider, F. (2015) The size and development of the shadow economy of 31 European and five other OECD Countries from 2003 to 2015: different developments, January. 1.

Taylor, M. (2017) Good Work: The Taylor review of modern working practices BEIS, London.