Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The unorganised worker: The decline in collectivism and new hurdles to individual employment rights

Pollert, Anna


Anna Pollert


The 'unorganised' worker (neither unionised nor covered by a collective agreement) is the norm in Britain, especially in the private sector, which employs about 70% of employees. In 2003, union membership was down to 29.3%, and 18.2% in the private sector. Collective bargaining covers 72.2% of workers in the public sector, but only 22.1% in the private, leaving statutory regulation of individual employment rights as the only protection for the majority of workers. In this context, access to these rights, and ease of enforcement, while never previously straightforward, are becoming increasingly crucial. The individualisation of the employment relationship, which began before New Labour returned to power in 1997, has continued with little restoration of collective rights and new legislation enhancing individual rights. The government's commitment to neo-liberalism and maintaining a 'flexible' labour force has ensured that these further rights are circumscribed by new legislation, which places them further out of reach. This paper discusses this process in the context of the difficulties workers already face in obtaining support and guidance, the lack of affordable professional legal advice and representation and the impediments to providing an adequate service by the under-funded voluntary sector. © Industrial Law Society; all rights reserved.


Pollert, A. (2005). The unorganised worker: The decline in collectivism and new hurdles to individual employment rights. Industrial Law Journal, 34(3), 217-238.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Sep 1, 2005
Journal Industrial Law Journal
Print ISSN 0305-9332
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 34
Issue 3
Pages 217-238
Keywords worker, employment rights
Public URL
Publisher URL

Downloadable Citations