The Dynamics of Regulating Labour: Researching labour law and political discourses in Finland

This is a Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC) seminar taking place at Leeds University Business School on Wednesday 17 October 2018

Dr Liisa Lähteenmäki, Postdoctoral research fellow, Jurisprudence (Faculty of Law), University of Turku.


Why do labour laws matter? Because regulating employment is essentially about fostering justice in an unequal relationship. Labour laws are about safeguarding employees’ livelihood in a modern society. To alter and negotiate labour laws are then matters of considerable societal power.

Essential labour legislation was initially passed in Finland in the beginning of 1900 but the decades of 1970s and 1980s were the ones during which the Finnish society witnessed several labour law amendments and extensions. These decades are carved into the nation’s collective memory as the time of expansion in employment protection and labour rights. Consolidation and expansion of laws protecting workers from health and safety hazards and from arbitrary terms of employment while safeguarding a decent living standard in case of unemployment, were for long celebrated as triumphs of democracy and of the labour movement. They represented the building of a Nordic welfare society. Nevertheless, the right-wing cabinets that have been elected to power since 2001 quickly started to conceptualize regulation, protective legislation and welfare benefits as excesses, wasteful spending, and red tape. This change in political landscape has paved the way for discourses, actions, and proposals to downgrade employee protections.

The work-in-progress research project I am presenting will essentially investigate the shifts in the rationale, legitimization, and argumentation of labour law, and in the composition of people with political leverage in the making of these laws. The research will explore both government proposals and memories of present and former MPs to unveil the ideological presumptions, underpinnings, and impressions about work, employment, and the employees, influencing regulation. The aim of the research is to develop a more nuanced understanding of the changes in Finnish labour law than mere references to globalization or economic fluctuation are able to produce.

We look forward to seeing you there.



Wednesday 14th November, 4pm-6pm - Room 1.06 Maurice Keyworth Building

Dr Chiara Bennassi, King's College, University of London

Title: TBC


Wednesday 28th November, 4pm-6pm - Room 1.09 Maurice Keyworth Building

Professor Sian Moore, University of Greenwich

Title: The Taylor Report and the (re)construction of preference for flexible working