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This module aims to bring students into close contact with the impact of technology in the workplace and to begin considering frameworks for responses as well as more detail innovations. It takes labour law as its point of departure: how does technology affect the workplace and its regulation in law? Underpinning the course are consideration of the following topics: non-standard employment, platform economy, gig work.
Innovations in information technology mark the turn and ensuing years of the 21st century as a period of transition from an analogue to a predominantly digital means of interaction. Discussion of the impact of information technology on the workplace has been largely limited to ‘gig’ work or the platform economy. This course explores these developments as part of a continuum. The commercial focus in economic liberalism has been the ethos over this time dating back to the early half of the 20th and continuing through the early 21st centuries. Approaches such as Fordism and Taylorism focused on maximising collective efforts of a labour force working as constituent elements of an enterprise. Production efficiencies were soon joined by cost reduction as similarly important aims. Models developed that deconstructed the regulatory apparatus as well as the (now) standard form of employment in order to effect these goals. Stimulation of the market economy became the driving factor in employment regulation. The platform economy enters here.
There has been an unproductive artificiality in the current understanding of information technology in employment law which focuses on procedural safeguards instead of deliberating upon the substantive rights underpinning the claims. The procedural approach alone has become insufficient. One conceptual problem has been the treatment of the workplace and employees’ private lives as distinct, separate entities where interconnectivity is narrowly defined: ‘The employer-employee relationship is contractual, with particular rights and obligations on either side, and is characterised by legal subordination. It is governed by its own legal rules, which differ considerably from those generally applicable to relations between individuals’. Contemporary innovations in information technology contest the more traditional boundaries relied upon in law. There has been an intermingling of employees’ private lives with the workplace. The course will consider how to balance of interests in the intersection between the workplace and information technology.
Indicative Topic List:
· Introduction to labour law and the digital economy
· Historical developments: Fordism, Taylorism, leading to the digital economy
· Platform work and status of employment: employee, independent contractor, worker, independent contractor
· Algorithms and work
· Rights and the Digital Economy, including privacy in the workplace
· Social media influencers and work