Our research

A dramatic upwards shot of the Parkinson building, lit up against a night sky

High quality research, teaching and knowledge dissemination enables us to examine the modernisation of employment relations, casting light on the processes of organisational restructuring and innovation to understand shifting patterns of continuity and change.

A focus on collaborative and interdisciplinary research together with an external-facing structure ensures informed and relevant dissemination to a broad network of stakeholders, academic experts and business practitioners, both at home and abroad.

Our three overarching research themes:

  1. Social inequalities

As social and economic changes unfold, the patterns and dynamics of inequalities shift and change. Identifying and understanding inequalities within work, employment and employment relations is an important aspect of the work of many CERIC scholars. Our research explores the construction, distribution and persistence of inequalities within a range of domains spanning work, employment, careers, professions and occupations, education and skills, representation and mobilisation. Research interrogates different analytical levels ranging from the individual and organisational to the economic, state and international. CERIC has a critical mass of expertise in the area of gender (in)equalities, feminist perspectives and analysis of work-family-care interdependencies. Our scholars have interest in understanding aspects of inequality such as race and ethnicity, disability, age and class. A further focus of our work on this theme is on mobility, migration and citizenship. Our interest in inclusive work marks an attention to identifying ways to advance equality and to tackle social exclusion in the domains of work, employment and society.

  1. Voice and representation

The challenges for workers in today’s labour markets are formidable. Many workers are experiencing increasingly precarious employment and greater exploitation, yet at the same time traditional collective interest representation is declining. Trade union response to the impact of neoliberalism in the economic and political arenas has been muted, despite recognition that there is a need to (re)organise new groups of workers in sections of the labour market that have remained outside the remit of trade unions. Members of CERIC study the industrial relations and social impact of the restructuring of labour and employment relations (such as the growth of subcontracting and agency employment) and the consequences of this for collective responses to these new conditions. They look at trade unions, community organisations and new forms of labour organising, including research on how technology is impacting upon representation and voice. Research has considered the strategic response of unions to restructuring in both manufacturing and service work (such as hospitality and cleaning); socially responsible restructuring; sex work and sex workers’ labour organisation in Argentina; labour unions and the integration of immigrant workers across Europe and the USA, and the extent to which community organising provides a way for unions to expand their research by linking up with organisations outside of the workplace. 

  1. Digital futures of work

There is much speculation about how digital technologies are reshaping work, but an absence of robust evidence. A core interest of CERIC is in understanding the impact and interaction of digital technologies for employers, employees and their representatives, job seekers and governments. CERIC research provides theoretically informed, empirically evidenced and policy relevant analysis of the benefits, risks and challenges of digital technologies. A new Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded Research Centre Digit has been established jointly, between CERIC and the University of Sussex, equivalent to £8m starting in January 2020 for five years. The Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (Digit) aims to provide a compelling empirical base that will allow policy makers to move beyond current levels of speculation, while contributing intellectually to contemporary debates on the future of work. 

Working Groups

Each year, CERIC also looks to refresh its research interests, to engage with emerging ideas and debates. The establishment of working groups each January, developed through collaborative discussion, offers one of the ways that we seek to refresh our activities.

In 2019 - 2020, working groups explored:

  • the future of pay
  • reconceptualising inclusion
  • technology at work
  • methodology in the study of work

A number of these working groups have resulted in research projects, workshops and events, and funding applications are planned. Future working groups are likely to explore climate change, regulation and sustainability and work.

How CERIC research addresses key challenges presented by the pandemic

CERIC researchers have been investigating a range of issues relating to COVID-19, since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Research activities are exploring the impact of COVID-19 on work and workers, the economy and society. CERIC projects around COVID-19 connect to one or more of the three core CERIC themes of Social Inequalities, Voice and Representation, and Digital Futures at Work. Projects have been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the World Universities Network (WUN), Research England, the International Labour Organisation, the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, as well as the Leeds Social Science Institute and through the LUBS Challenge Fund.