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Britain and individual employment rights: 'Paper tigers, fierce in appearance but missing in tooth and claw'

Pollert, Anna


Anna Pollert


There is much evidence that the 'European social model' is under threat, with neoliberalism increasingly dominating policy both at EU and national levels. Within this trend, Britain stands out as already having a long-established free market tradition-Anglo-American in both industrial relations and corporate governance systems. This article seeks to illustrate how British state allegiance to a 'flexible' labour market has brought new restrictions to accessing statutory employment protection, the chief defence for 'unorganized' workers those who are neither unionized nor covered by collective agreements and who now comprise the majority of workers in Britain. The New Labour government, committed to voluntarism and fiexibility, has used the very instrument it avers to avoid legal regulation to limit access to employment tribunals, the final resort for legal enforcement of employment rights. The government has thus constrained its concessions to the European social model, which comprise a range of laws since 1997 enhancing individual employment rights, in its overarching neoliberal policy, by ensuring legal regulation remains difflcult to achieve and does not 'burden' business. This article, based on research both on legal developments, and on the social support mechanisms for non-unionized workers, seeks to demonstrate the extreme vulnerability of the unorganized worker in an increasingly free market Britain. How far this portrait has relevance to the rightward drift of Europe depends on the degree to which it can be exported, how far continental European systems are sufflciently institutionally embedded to resist this, and how successfully the European social model is defended. © 2007 Arbetslivinstitutet.


Pollert, A. (2007). Britain and individual employment rights: 'Paper tigers, fierce in appearance but missing in tooth and claw'. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 28(1), 110-139.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Feb 1, 2007
Journal Economic and Industrial Democracy
Print ISSN 0143-831X
Electronic ISSN 1461-7099
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 1
Pages 110-139
Keywords Britain, employment rights
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