The Work and Equalities Institute runs a wide variety of different events and activities, and collaborates with a range of stakeholders.

Annual Lecture 2021

Work and Equalities Institute Third Annual Lecture

The  role of digital labour platforms in transforming the world of work

Dr Uma Rani, Research Department, International Labour Office.

Downloadable information

The lecture is now available to view via YouTube.

Technological innovation is transforming every part of our lives. The ability to quickly and cheaply exchange large amounts of data and information has laid the foundations for the rise of the digital economy and digital labour platforms. Businesses and consumers have embraced this transformation in both developed and developing countries, as services and goods are delivered in ways that are cheaper and more convenient. Digital labour platforms are now part of our everyday lives.

This transformation extends to the world of work. Digital labour platforms offer new markets for businesses and more income-generating opportunities for workers, including those who were previously outside the labour market. Such platforms are leading to changes not just to the organization of enterprises and work processes but also the relationship between workers and businesses.

In this talk, Dr Uma Rani will discuss some of the challenges raised, including the impact of digital platforms on traditional businesses and the working conditions of platform workers.

About the speaker

Uma Rani is Senior Economist at the Research Department of the International Labour Office. She is a Development Economist and has conducted research in informal economy, minimum wages and social policies. Since 2016, her research focuses on transformations in the digital economy, wherein she explores how labour and social institutions interact with public policies and can provide decent working conditions to workers.

She has recently coordinated the publication of the ILO flagship report, World Employment and Social Outlook 2021: The role of digital labour platforms in transforming the world of work.

Policy Discussion

Policy Discussion: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on working women

Date: Tuesday 27 April 2021

Time: 13:00 - 14:30

Registration: Eventbrite

Downloadable information

Watch the recording here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on work and working lives, and there is a recognised need to consider the issue of differential impacts across demographic groups. This event hosted by the Work and Equalities Institute will consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working women looking at issues such as equality at work, flexible work, parental support, and pregnant workers.

Women, employment and parental support in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This presentation is based on comparative research undertaken during the first wave of COVID-19 that reviewed the potential impact of the pandemic from a gender perspective. In particular, the presentation focuses on the special arrangements that were put in place by European governments to assist parents who were unable to work due to school and nursery closures. These arrangements are examined in terms of the extent to which they support gender equality.

Isabel Tavora, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Manchester Alliance Business School and a member of the Work and Equalities Institute. Her research focuses on comparative employment policy, collective bargaining, gender equality and work-family reconciliation. Isabel chairs the School’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.


Rubery, J. and Távora, I. (2021)‘The COVID-19 crisis and gender equality: risks and opportunities’ in Vanhercke B., Spasova S. and Fronteddu B. (eds.) Social policy in the European Union: state of play 2020. Facing the pandemic, Brussels, European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and European Social Observatory (OSE).

Unsafe and unsupported: pregnant workers in the pandemic.

Pregnant women were identified as a vulnerable group early in the pandemic, however, measures to protect and support this group of women at work were slow to materialise and inadequate. This includes health and safety protection, the operation of the furlough scheme and support for the self-employed, and protection against discrimination in the economic downturn

Ros Bragg is Director of Maternity Action, the UK charity campaigning to promote, protect and strengthen maternity rights in the areas of employment, social security and healthcare.  Ros has led the organisation since its inception in 2008, pursuing campaigns to challenge maternity discrimination in the workplace, to end charging vulnerable migrants for NHS maternity care and to reduce maternal health inequalities.  She has worked in the voluntary sector and civil service in the UK and Australia.

Work after Lockdown: will the future of work be fair, inclusive and flexible?

This presentation presents the learnings about working-from-home under the first UK national lockdown from research undertaken by the ESRC funded Work After Lockdown project. Work After Lockdown is a longitudinal project exploring whether working-from-home under COVID-19 lockdown is changing how people want to work in the future, and how organisations respond. Individual experiences of the period of rapid adjustment from office-based to entirely home-based working is examined using employee interviews and data from a new national worker well-being survey; and organisational case studies in commercial Law firms and Local Authorities offer insight into how effectively organisations managed the transition and supported diverse workforce needs. The implications for people-management skills, diversity and inclusion policy and practices, and flexible working are highlighted.

Zoe Young, Director of Half the Sky and Co-investigator, Work After Lockdown, culminating in the report Working from home under COVID-19 lockdown: Transitions and tensions. Zoe combines academic work with consultancy and advises large, complex organisations on inclusive and flexible work design.

Discussant: Sian Elliott, Women’s Equality Policy Officer at the TUC.

Sian Elliott is an experienced policy officer specialising in women's rights & equality at work. In her role at TUC, Sian leads on all matters relating to women’s rights and equality in the workplace, including issues of discrimination, equal pay, sexual harassment and violence at work, childcare and maternity rights. Formerly, Sian lead on policy and campaigning at 4in10: London's Child Poverty Network, research and policy at the Runnymede Trust, the UK’s leading race equality think tank, and in local government. Sian has also worked in academia, lecturing at the University of Roehampton on social inequalities and intersectional theory.

Forthcoming events

For Work and Equalities seminars, please select Seminar Series 2020-21.

Events relating to COVID-19

Members of the Work and Equalities Institute have been involved in a number of webinars discussing the effects of the pandemic on society.

Gender equality and in-work poverty: which role for the EU?

The OSE, ETUI and AK EUROPA held a webinar at the launch of the 21st edition of ‘Social policy in the European Union: state of play 2020’.

Jill Rubery and Isabel Tavora spoke on 'The Covid 19 crisis and gender equality: risks and opportunities'.
22 January 2021

Navigating Flexibility: Hybrid working, Equality & COVID-19

Flexible working has always been a double-edged sword: bringing greater freedom for employees and employers, but also unexpected negative consequences for both. As organisations continue to oscillate between returning to work, working from home and new hybrid patterns of working, Jill Rubery and Emma Banister joined the Manchester branch of the CIPD to ask what we might learn from the lessons of the past to help navigate an uncertain future.

WEI/CIPD webinar and podcast, 03 December 2020

MICRA/AMBS webinar: COVID-19: considering the impact on older workers

Dr Sheena Johnson (Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester), Dr Emily Andrews (Centre for Ageing Better) and Dr Mat Ainsworth (Greater Manchester Combined Authority Ageing Hub) discussed how older workers are potentially disproportionately affected given their increased risk to COVID-19, how the recession is seeing a substantial hit to their earnings and hours and the labour market inequalities faced by older people. They considered how current and future research will inform responses and opportunities presented by COVID-19.

MICRA/AMBS webinar and podcast, 19th August 2020

Is remote working the future of work?

The COVID-19 crisis has thrown light on both the positive and negative aspects of home and remote working. On the one hand, workers have shown great resilience and resourcefulness in adapting to the challenges, demonstrating their commitment in the industries and sectors where it has been possible to do so. Indeed, as technology increasingly enables remote working, some employers are now considering a longer or even permanent shift to homeworking.

Tony Dundon, Jonny Gifford (Senior Advisor for Organisational Behaviour at the CIPD) and Natasha Owusu (Policy & Campaigns Support Officer for Equalities at the TUC), discussed the pros, cons and sustainability of remote working.

Alliance Manchester Business School webinar and podcast, 14 July 2020

Women and Work

This University of Manchester webinar, part of the Doing Things Differently series, examined the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking in detail at the world of work, our academics discuss the care burden on women throughout the crisis and the implications of the economic fallout. The panel address the solutions needed to ensure that women can look forward to a fairer world.

Jill Rubery took part, commenting that “There’s a very high risk that women will be losing employment once job retention schemes and furlough comes to an end”

University of Manchester webinar and podcast, 25 June 2020

Valuing workers: how do cities need to change in the post-pandemic economy?

Coronavirus has shone a spotlight on many of the inequalities that some people face in the workplace. On average, the wealthier you are the less likely you are to come into close contact with others, and people in cities in southern England are more likely to be able to work from home than those in the north – shielding them from the health risks posed by the pandemic. Yet even before the virus hit, the labour market was changing quickly. Automation means fewer workers will need to carry out manual activities and technology theoretically makes it easier for office-based workers to work from home.

Tony Dundon took part in this webinar with Elena Magrini, Senior Analyst for Centre for Cities.

Centre for Cities webinar and podcast, 25 June 2020

The future after furlough

On Wednesday 10 June Jill Rubery took part in the CIPD Festival of Work, joining a panel discussing 'The future after furlough'.

COVID-19 - Avoiding an employment cliff-edge

With more than six million UK workers now having their wages paid by the state and 800,000 employers using the government's job retention scheme, just how viable is the scheme in the long-run? Is it feasible to extend the scheme beyond its current cut-off date of the end of June, and if so how should the government be looking to adapt and extend the scheme further? Likewise, what future shape should other employment protection measures taken in the wake of COVID-19, such as help for the self-employed, now take as we come out of lockdown?

Jill Rubery took part in an Original Thinking webinar debating the viability of the government's job retention scheme in the long-run, and related questions.

AMBS Webinar and podcast, 20 May 2020

The Value of Human Labour seminar series

The Value of Human Labour

This session presented an interdisciplinary discussion of critical issues confronting human labour under Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on work and working lives. This has ignited an important debate on the value of human labour, which has increased awareness of the criticality of a wide range of jobs, many of which have been traditionally undervalued, both politically and socially.

The UK government’s definition of ‘key workers’ amount to 7.1 million adults, many of which are underpaid, working in insecure jobs and operating in public-facing roles. Among key workers, Black, Asian, and working-class groups make up a disproportionately large share, leaving them far more exposed to infection. Additionally, sectors dominated by female workers, such as retail and hospitality, have been hit hard by variations of lockdown, placing them at increased risk of both job loss and furlough. Uncertainty surrounding schooling and childcare provision adds an extra burden.

Speakers included
Francesca Gains: Professor of Public Policy, Academic Co-Director of Policy@Manchester and member of the Greater Manchester Women and Girls’ Equality Panel.
Martí López-Andreu: Senior Lecturer in HRM and Employment Relations, Newcastle University, and an associate member of the Work and Equalities Institute.
Cristina Inversi: Research Fellow in Labour Law at Università Statale di Milano and a member of the Work and Equalities Institute Institute.
Tony Dundon: Professor of HRM and Employment Relations at Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, and Visiting Professor at the Work and Equalities Institute.
Sheena Johnson: Professor of Work Psychology and Wellbeing at the University of Manchester. She heads up the Fair Treatment at Work theme in the Work and Equalities Institute, and the Social Change and Ageing theme in the Thomas Ashton Institute, University of Manchester.

Download the poster.

Listen to the podcast.

See the slides:
Gender, growth and devolution: Francesca Gains.
Bogus self-employment and Covid-19: Martí López-Andreu.
#HereToDeliver: Tony Dundon and Cristina Inversi.

The Value of Human Labour 2

The second session continued the interdisciplinary discussion of critical issues confronting human labour under Covid-19.

Abbie Winton: final year doctoral researcher at the Work and Equalities Institute. Her research explores retail work and sociotechnical change, with a current focus on the crisis and the shaping impact this could have on the future of work within the sector.
Debra Howcroft: Professor of Technology and Organisation at the Work and Equalities Institute and Editor of New Technology, Work and Employment.
Jill Rubery: Professor of Comparative Employment Systems and Director of the Work and Equalities Institute.
Jo McBride: Professor at the University of Durham.
Miguel Martinez Lucio: Professor at the Work & Equalities Institute and Editor of New Technology, Work and Employment.
Anthony Rafferty: Professor of Employment Studies at the University of Manchester and a Deputy Director of the Work and Equalities Institute (WEI).
Stefania Marino: Senior Lecturer in Employment Studies at the University of Manchester.

Listen to the podcast.

See the slides:
Beyond work intensification: Jo McBride and Miguel Martinez Lucio.
Sharing the load: Jill Rubery and Isabel Tavora.
Conflicting Covid narratives: Abbie Winton and Debra Howcroft
COVID-19 and the importance of migrant labour in the UK: Stefania Marino, Anthony Rafferty and Miguel Martinez Lucio

Seminars and events 2020-21

Society of Occupational Medicine and Public Health England Webinar series 3

Managing job insecurity and creating better quality work

Watch the video.

View the slides.

What is poor quality work? We know that poor quality work that is precarious, and insecure can be more damaging to health than unemployment. This section of the working population is likely to increase during the pandemic and its aftermath. These workers are also often left out of wellbeing initiatives and any initiative of support is often hard to access. There is no sick pay for these workers so the risk of presenteeism and associated health risks is greater.

Speakers included Jill Rubery. Watch the video. 

Thursday 4 February 2021

MIRS and Work and Equalities Institute

COVID at work: the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

Janet Newsham, Chair of the National Hazards Campaign and Coordinator at Greater Manchester Hazards Centre
Steve Tombs, Professor of Criminology at The Open University

Thursday 12 November 2020

BUIRA special seminar

COVID-19 and the centrality of the employment relationship.

Tony Dobbins (University of Birmingham, BUIRA President): the context of Covid-19 and the relevance of employment relations.
Abbie Winton and Debra Howcroft (University of Manchester): What Covid-19 tells us about the value of human labour.
Jo McBride (University of Durham) and Miguel Martínez Lucio (University of Manchester): Recognising the value of cleaning work.
Phil Taylor (University of Strathclyde): Call Centres and Coronavirus report.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

MIRS annual Arthur Priest Memorial Lecture, jointly with the CIPD and Work and Equalities Institute

Managing organisational culture: Lessons from COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter.

Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna, Professor of Management and Organization, Cardiff University.

Thursday 15 October 2020

Annual Lecture 2020

Unfortunately, restrictions caused by COVID-19 meant that we were unable to hold the 2020 annual lecture.

We are currently planning the 2021 annual lecture and details will appear here as they are finalised.

PGR events

Tackling contemporary research challenges in uncertain times

Postgraduate Researchers’ Seminar Series 2020-21

The Work and Equalities Institute is pleased to announce a new online seminar series open to all Postgraduate Researchers (PGR). The series will discuss the current Covid-19 context and the challenges faced conducting research within this. This series will aim to address the different challenges that PGRs who research work and inequalities are experiencing, and will aim to provide them with some of the tools needed to address and overcome these issues. Our speakers will provide their top tips on a variety of topics and will reflect on the different methodological tools they employed throughout their careers.

‘Addressing issues surrounding the ethnocentrism of research’

18 June 2020 (1pm-3pm)
Speakers: Dr Jenny Rodriguez, Dr Sadhvi Dar and Prof Anders Neergaard

This session aims to address the ethnocentrism of contemporary research,dealing with issues such as experiences of otherness in research, both as the role of the researcher as well as the way in which findings and issues are translated to accommodate knowledge to fit dominant paradigms. Hereby losing the voices and knowledge presented by other places and people. The problem that needs to be resolved with dominant theory from "the West", and how doctoral students deal with the tensions this poses.

Read more about the seminar and registration details.

'Conducting remote research’

9 April 2020 (1pm-2.30pm)
Speakers: Dr Alberta Giorgi and Prof Lee-Ann Fenge

During Covid-19, online interviewing has become increasingly important for qualitative researchers to be able to conduct their research. This session will be led by current PGRs and an experienced academic who has done innovative remote research, who will discuss their experiences, and challenges they faced conducting such research. Questions that will be asked include: 'How to build rapport without being physically present?' and 'how to deal with access when interviewing remotely'.

Listen to the recording.

Read the blog.

'How to utilise secondary data sources and an introduction to UK Data Service'

29 January 2020 (1pm-2.30pm)
Speaker: Sarah King-Hele (UKDS)

Throughout the pandemic, it has become increasingly important to access secondary data sources for research. This interactive session aims to introduce PGRs to accessing and utilising secondary data useful for researching inequalities, in particular national-level data such as the Labour Force Survey (LFS), Understanding Society, Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS), UK census data etc . Sarah King-Hele from the UK Data Service will discuss what data is available for researchers and how to access it. Ceri Hughes and Sanne Velthuis from the Work and Equalities Institute regularly use these resources in their own research and will discuss how they use this data and how to get started.

Download the poster.

‘Re-framing your research’

6 November 2020 (1pm-2.30pm) Speaker: Professor Valeria Pulignano (KU Leuven)

Every research project evolves and changes, as new challenges and new questions present themselves; the current pandemic is one such situation. In this session, we will hear from established academics about their experiences reshaping major research projects and how they are tackling constraints of researching within the current context. It should also provide an opportunity for PGRs to share some of their concerns and talk through practical solutions to re-thinking research projects in the current context.