The WorkOD project seeks to investigate the ever-evolving nature of contracts and contracting behaviour in the world of work – not only contracts of employment, but also those of casual, ‘zero-hours’, and self-employed workers. A particular point of focus is the emerging ‘gig’ or ‘on demand’ economy, in which consumers order a range of services, or delivery of a range of goods, online or via smart phone apps. The project has a strong comparative dimension, and will analyse differences in forms of contract and contracting behaviour across jurisdictions and over the course of several decades. A key innovation is the characterisation of contracting for work as an instance of economic, social and legal behaviour. With the aim of developing a new methodology for the study of work contracts, we will seek to synthesise elements of economic sociology, sociology of law, and political economy into a new ‘economic sociology of labour law’. The relevance of this work will extend beyond the field of labour law into other legal disciplines and branches of social science.
The project is motivated by a normative and empirical concern with the continued viability of systems of labour law that are, broadly-speaking, protective of workers’ interests. It builds on previous, prize-winning research conducted by the Principal Investigator, Ruth Dukes, into traditional and more recent market-based approaches to the study of labour law.