Photo of Professor Lydia Hayes

Professor Lydia Hayes

Professor of Labour Rights Law


Research Overview

Labour rights include the employment rights that support terms and conditions of employment through contractual protection and forms of income security. Labour rights include equality rights, intended to support diversity in workforce participation, as well as trade union rights that determine when it is lawful for working people to act collectively to try and improve their working lives. Labour rights also encompass aspects of welfare law and migration law because working people have rights that might be exercised if they are unable to find employment, are disabled or need to provide care to others, or if their earnings are insufficient to support a decent life, or when they come from outside the UK in search of work. However, in my research I’m often looking in unexpected places for laws that govern working life – for example in the regulation of social care provision, in the governance of public services, or in the construction of criminal offences that occur only in the context of an employment relationship. In each area of working people’s law, labour rights play an important role in supporting public health, and where labour rights fail or are ineffective, public health deteriorates.

My multi-award winning monograph Stories of Care: A Labour of Law, Gender and class at work (2017) argued that design of labour rights excludes care workers from effective protection and exposes them to a process I call ‘institutionalised humiliation’, through which care workers are persistently judged to be inferior labour market participants. Ive since written many papers and articles about the need to support improvements to the quality of care workers’ jobs and the positive impact this would have for the quality of care provided to older and disabled people in need of care and support. As a principal investigator for Welcome Trust on the project Social Care Regulation at Work, I worked with Dr Alison Tarrant and Dr Hannah Walters to establish that the regulatory law designed to ensure safe care provision in England, Scotland and Wales, is also a source of employment norms that are specific to the social care sector. Drawing on data gathered from care inspectors, care home managers and care workers we concluded that if social care regulation was understood more fully as a source of labour standards for the sector, care quality could be improved, and care workers could be better supported and rewarded.

I am mid-way through writing a new monograph about equal pay law, in which I advance the case for new forms of law to eradicate sex-based low pay and expand our ambitions for what the principle of equal pay ought to mean in the twenty-first century. I look at over one hundred years of campaigning and court decisions to demonstrate that removing discrimination from pay setting is too narrow an objective for equal pay law in contemporary context. I argue that new law is needed to tackle sex-based low pay. If working-class women in low waged work can achieve equal pay, they will achieve access to sufficient income through work, will enjoy working conditions that support good health, and will secure for themselves the fundamental starting point of equal pay for work of equal value, from which effective political voice can grow.

My work on the equal pay law book sits alongside a broader ambition to contribute evidence, ideas and analysis to advocate a case for labour rights for the protection of public health and a contemporary social contract through which the state drives the social advancement of capacities for care and well-being.