Should precarious work be the focus of Labour Law?

Authors Darcy du Toit

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 39 Issue 4, 2018, p. 2089 – 2106


This article draws on the findings of a joint research project conducted by researchers at the University of Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape, together with Workers World Media Productions during 2016-2017. It uses the term ‘precarious work’ to refer to the various forms of ‘non-standard’ or ‘vulnerable’ work that are characterised by a lack of adequate legal protection. The reasons for this, it argues, lie in the absence of appropriate mechanisms in the existing labour law framework for addressing the conditions of precarious workers. It suggests that alternative means of workplace regulation which are more responsive to the needs of precarious and marginalised workers are required, involving the devolution of regulatory powers to appropriate levels. Enabling legislation is proposed to create inclusive regulatory processes in different work or social domains, including supervision by higher organs of state with residual powers to ensure that the public interest is safeguarded. Such an approach, it argues, is consistent with the constitutional principle of substantive equality, and could help to rejuvenate labour law at a time when its structures are increasingly less able to engage with a changing work environment.