Lizzie Barmes: Bullying and Behavioural Conflict at Work: The Duality of Individual Rights

Publication Date01 Dec 2017
AuthorAlan Bogg
Book Reviews
Winner of the SLSA's 2017 Hart Socio-Legal Book Prize
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, 320 pp., £81.00)
The grand narrative arc of labour law in the United Kingdom since the
middle decades of the twentieth century may be characterized as the erosion
of collective structures and institutions for the regulation of working life.
The resulting regulatory vacuum has created a contested political space
where `neo-liberals' have pressed for greater `freedom of contract', while
activists on the progressive left have increasingly pursued an emancipatory
agenda based upon industrial justice through individual rights.
The first signs of this shift could be detected in the mid-1960s and the
tentative introduction of `individual rights' and a nascent discipline of
`employment law'. In a short span of time, Lord Wedderburn had catalogued
and analysed the burgeoning `floor of rights' introduced in the `social
contract' phase of legislative development between 1974 and 1979.
In so
doing, he provided a heroic attempt at rationalizing the normative and
doctrinal `fit' between statutory employment rights for individuals and the
institutions and practices of collective bargaining. Many of these individual
rights, which have grown subsequently through a process of haphazard
political accretion rather than overarching rational design, have been con-
cerned with the regulation of behavioural conflict at work. In this respect,
unfair dismissal and anti-discrimination rights have been of particular
importance. In the four decades that followed, there has been much analysis
on the phenomenon of `juridification' in employment relations from
empirical, philosophical, and doctrinal perspectives. Yet very few works
have integrated empirical and doctrinal perspectives to provide a measured
assessment of the emancipatory impact of this `floor of rights'.
In her recent OUP Monograph, Bullying and Behavioural Conflict at Work,
Professor Lizzie Barmes has produced a remarkable piece of scholarship that
provides a profound analysis of the legal and social dynamics of the
individualization in working life that was presaged by the `floor of rights'. The
work traces the impact of individual employment and equality rights as
utilized in contexts of `behavioural conflict' in the workplace. It does so by
1 Lord Wedderburn, `The Employment Protection Act 1975: Collective Aspects'
(1976) 39 Modern Law Rev. 169.
ß2017 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2017 Cardiff University Law School

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