Adrian Janes Selected Sources for Labour Law
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By Adrian Janes


DocuTicker editors contribute brief articles to FUMSI on conducting research with grey literature - reports from government agencies, think tanks, research institutes and public interest organisations.


In my work as a contributing editor for DocuTicker, I research publicly available reports on a number of global topics. Here are some of my favourite resources for labour law:

Today, the international character of much investment means that those seeking to set up in other countries or continents must be aware not only of cultural differences but also the legal considerations that apply there. Indeed, it’s the amount of regulation, both in terms of general workers’ rights and what pertains to a specific industry, which can determine whether or not investment goes ahead. Labour law also has both national and international dimensions - in this article I will be chiefly looking at the national and regional, focusing on the UK, Europe, North America and Australia.

The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) has a useful page on labour law. As well as a brief summary of the law in each country (both within and outside the EU), there are links to the text of key pieces of legislation. However these are only examples, and rather more are given for some countries than others. Joining the FedEE is necessary to access its much more comprehensive HR Knowledgebase.

In terms of free sources much more information is available, on a global scale, through the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) National Labour Law Profiles. However these only cover selected countries, among which are Australia, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Russian Federation.

The profiles examine many important areas, e.g. contracts of employment, maternity leave, equality and disputes. Besides the ILO’s summaries, there are links from these pages to the full text of related laws, along with ways into national legal sources such as employment ministries. The fact of these links is important, as a way of ensuring the currency of the legal picture.

But in any case the ILO also has its much more wide-ranging NATLEX database, which claims “over 80,000 records covering 196 countries and over 160 territories and subdivisions”. Browsing can be done by country or subject. Advanced Search is also available, including the option to run the same search for up to five countries at once. Having clicked on a country, the collection of documents is then broken down by many headings and sub-headings. This provides good guidance towards particular areas of labour law even when several thousand documents are accessible, as is the case with, say, France.

It should be borne in mind that, apart from the UK, the governmental structures of Australia, Canada, the USA and the EU Member States mean that there may be important law (albeit not necessarily in the employment field) which operates only at the state or provincial level. Even the UK is not entirely immune to this rule, as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have some legislation which relates only to them, partly as a consequence of the devolution that has been granted since the late 1990s.

Among the chief routes into employment or labour law in the countries under consideration are:

Australia - The Library of the Parliament of Australia has a superb page on all aspects of employment law, including:

  • Legislation

  • Court and Tribunal decisions

  • Key National Bodies

  • Key Publications

  • Other Australian sites (e.g. State organisations)

There is also a summary of significant events in the development of Australian employment law.

Even more useful in the present context, also provided is a small but well-chosen selection of comparable overseas sites, which encompasses the ILO, Hieros Gamos (primarily US labour law but also sources for other jurisdictions), Emplaw (in part a subscription site but which includes a free UK Law Guide), Canada’s University of Toronto (like Hieros Gamos, this comes with further links to other jurisdictions and the ILO), Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute (USA), and additionally the library of the University of Waikato (New Zealand).

Canada - Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Department of Justice are key, especially the former.

European Union - Eur-Lex is the database for all EU legislation. There is also a “thematic file” on Employment Law. Although compiled in 2008, like all such files it purports to be “the most relevant current legislation on the subject”. The Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities is also useful. The European Labour Law Network composed of legal experts, is valuable for news at both the national and European levels, and its links to the full text of judgements.

United Kingdom - Statute Law Database encompasses all UK law. It can be searched for types of legal instrument (e.g. an Act) but not a specific area of the law such as employment. The Employment pages from DirectGov are more directly helpful, but being summaries are probably not of the level legal professionals would wish. They also do not cite or link to the relevant legal text. BAILII’s Legislation Search may complement a search on either of these as it allows for more precision in the terms used.

USA - Department of Labor, in particular its Employment Law Guide.

Finally, on the international level, the ILO’s ILOLEX database gives comprehensive coverage of labour conventions, and which countries are party to them.

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