The changing nature of employment relationships and its challenge for health and safety law

  • Salha Al shaibani

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The thesis explores the challenges faced by health and safety law in the UK as a consequence of the continuous changes in the employment relationship. This primarily covers the growth of the different forms of non-standard work. Health and safety law developed through a number of socio-economic changes in the UK. It has moved from only covering particular areas and particular classes of workers in the nineteenth century to wider areas of occupational health and safety and to include more of those at work. The thesis sets out the issues surrounding non-standard work arrangements and how they might affect the application of health and safety law. Key case-law is examined and the legal changes in the area of health and safety carefully analysed.

    Research has been carried out by others concerning the reasons for and extent of the changing nature of work as an indicator of the changes that took place in the labour market in general; but the research in this thesis concentrates on how the application of health and safety law is challenged by such changes. The central hypothesis of the thesis is that non-standard work by its very nature might put those who are employed under its various types at more risk than their counterpart standard workers. This hypothesis is developed and explored through the field-work. The field-work took the form of a postal questionnaire to workers in the UK in geographical areas selected for their differing characteristics together with some semi structured interviews which sought to introduce a qualitative data element to the quantitative data in order to enrich and elaborate upon the findings of the questionnaire.

    Analysis of the completed and returned questionnaires revealed that in today's workplace the nature of risk has changed, with an increase in the psychological risk related to work. Both groups of standard and nonstandard workers suffered from stress-related illness. This illustrates the complexity of the concept of vulnerability and how that might challenge the application of health and safety law and affect its efficacy. A number of unexpected issues surfaced through the field-work, such as that working in the different types of non-standard work were effectively involuntary for some of those who chose to work this way. The main reason for their decisions was to be able to provide for the family income as well as to have more control over work and the ability to combine work with other responsibilities including domestic duties. Despite the relatively low number of non-standard workers who participated in the postal questionnaire, it seems that they are in a better position than was hypothesized at the outset, before the field-work took place.

    Analysis of the semi-structured interviews revealed that interviewees had considerable knowledge and awareness about their employer's general duties in terms of risk assessment and safety training in addition to other significant aspects. This applies to both standard and non-standard workers, which indicates the important improvement in the management of occupational health and safety. However, a serious issue was common to most of those who suffered accident and/or ill-health from both groups of standard of non-standard workers: not reporting their experiences to their employers. In addition, many of those workers did not seek legal advice following their accident and/or ill-health because of fear and uncertainty about their employers' reaction. The thesis concludes with some reflections on the effectiveness or otherwise of health and safety legislation.
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMichael Stuckey (Supervisor)


    • Labor laws and legislation
    • Industrial hygiene
    • Industrial safety
    • Law and legislation

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