chapter  2
30 Pages

FEMINISM AND LABOUR LAW: CONTESTING THE TERRAIN

ByJoanne Conaghan

Labour law can be identified as an area where a growing consciousness of gender has produced quite dramatic changes. Over the last 10 years in particular, the strategic deployment of test cases by individuals and groups concerned with advancing women’s interests has resulted in the substantial dismantling of key legal assumptions underpinning the labour law conception of the worker.2 Such developments can be located within a broader shift in focus in labour law away from a preoccupation with collective issues towards a concern with the adequacy and scope of individual legal rights.3 This, in turn, has generated demand for legal change resulting in achievements for those seeking to improve the legal status of women workers which, while facilitated and, perhaps, in part, presaged by wide reaching demographic changes relating to the gender composition of the workforce and the operation and structure of the labour market, are all the more remarkable given a backdrop, for the most part,

of government hostility towards improved employment protection provision.4