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

Annual Lecture 2023

Work and Equalities Institute Fifth Annual Lecture

Why do workers leave the labour force?
Pandemic-era work transitions in the US and Germany

Prof Ian Greer, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University.

Date: Thursday 18th May
Time: 11:00 to 12:30

Venue: Alliance Manchester Business School Lecture Pod B.
Register via Eventbrite

Tea and coffee available from 10:30, lunch at 12:30

Download details.


Once celebrated as a powerful engine of job creation, the US labour market has performed poorly over the past two decades. Unemployment rates have become increasingly volatile, unemployment durations have become longer, and labour force participation has declined. In this talk I examine some of the reasons for this change, drawing on a longitudinal qualitative study of US and German workers who experienced a spell of unemployment during the pandemic. I argue that some of the US’s more illiberal institutions create severe barriers to workers attempting to make transitions to work, and that supports such as unemployment insurance fail to compensate.

About the speaker

Ian Greer directs the ILR Ithaca Co-Lab and is a Research Professor. He carries out engaged research and teaching in Ithaca and the surrounding region. Before he moved to Ithaca he worked for nearly 10 years based in England, first as a Research Fellow at Leeds University and then as Professor of Comparative Employment Relations and Director of the Work and Employment Research Unit at the University of Greenwich. He has had visiting positions in Aix-en-Provence, Berlin, Cologne, Chemnitz, Jena, Paris, and Sydney.

Ian uses qualitative comparative methods to examine marketization and its effects in industrial relations and welfare states. His early work explored how German and US trade unions were coping with intensified price-based competition, through international solidarity, collective bargaining, coalitions with civil society, and organizing the unorganized. Over the years he has extended this line of questioning to examine the way that managers and policymakers stage competition across Europe, in multinational automakers, welfare-to-work schemes, social work, health care, ports, and music.

Inaugural Lecture: Professor Sheena Johnson

Inaugural Lecture: Professor Sheena Johnson

Research with impact: health and wellbeing, ageing workforce and Covid-19

Wednesday 18 May 16:30 - 17:30

In person at Alliance Manchester Business School (online also available)

The lecture is available to view here.

In her Inaugural Lecture Sheena will detail her research into health and wellbeing at work. She will outline her early work into occupational differences and wellbeing related outcomes, before detailing her more recent focus on the ageing workforce which formed an impact case for REF2021 and led her to create the ‘Age, Health and Professional Drivers’ Network’. She will also talk about her ongoing work in the PROTECT COVID-19 National Core Study where she has investigated the impact of the pandemic on workers and workplaces.

Sheena Johnson is an Occupational and Chartered Psychologist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. She is an active researcher into the topics of stress and health and the ageing workforce. She established the ‘Age, Health and Professional Drivers’ Network, comprising transport and logistics firms, unions and industry representatives with an interest in age and health and wellbeing in the transport sector, which builds capacity in the sector to exchange knowledge and best practice.

The event will be facilitated by Elinor O'Connor, Professor of Occupational Psychology, Director of Teaching and Learning, and Deputy Head of Alliance Manchester Business School.

A drinks reception will follow the event in AMBS reception.

Register for the lecture here.

Forthcoming events

Regulating low wages: A comparison of policy patterns and outcomes

Georg Picot, Professor in Comparative Politics
University of Bergen, Norway


The paper provides a comparative analysis of three central policies to regulate low wages: statutory minimum wages, state support for collective bargaining, and topping up low wages with public transfers (in-work benefits). We map the variation of these policies across 33 OECD countries and analyze how they affect the incidence of low-wage employment. We find three configurations of low-wage policy. In the first type, “wage scale protection”, governments put most emphasis on supporting collective bargaining. In the second, “bare minimum”, there is not much else than the statutory minimum wage. In the third, “state pay”, the statutory minimum wage is supplemented by sizeable public financial support for low earners. When analyzing policy outcomes, it is clear that “wage scale protection” is the best model in containing low-wage employment. In “bare minimum” models much depends on the level of the statutory minimum wage. Although “state pay” models help with disposable income they exacerbate the incidence of low pay.

Siri Hansen Pedersen, University of Bergen.
Georg Picot, University of Bergen.

About the speaker

Georg Picot is Professor in Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen, Norway. He is specialized in comparative political economy and comparative welfare state research. In his current research project, he analyses how states regulate wages, in particular the politics of regulating low-wage employment (funded by a FRIPRO Young Research Talents Grant from the Research Council of Norway). His research appeared in several disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals, including British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of European Public Policy, Journal of European Social Policy, Socio-Economic Review, and Industrial Relations Journal. In 2012 he published the monograph Politics of Segmentation: Party Competition and Social Protection in Europe (Routledge). Before Bergen, Georg held positions at the University of Manchester, University of Oxford, and University of Heidelberg.

Full details can be downloaded here.

The Social Organization of Ideas in Employment Relations

Marco Hauptmeier, Professor of International Human Resource Management
Cardiff Business School, University of Cardiff


This seminar compares how the United States and Germany deregulated labour markets between the 1980s and 2010s in response to the rise of neoliberalism. Building on literature with a focus on ideas and national knowledge regimes, the authors argue that the trajectories of labour market deregulation across the two countries are explained by the distinct social organization of ideas. The latter refers to the actors and institutions involved in the production and dissemination of ideas (including think tanks and public research institutes), their access and ways of communicating to political elites and electorates, levels of shared academic standards across the political divide, and related degrees of competition or cooperation in the production of new knowledge and policy ideas. Moving beyond previous employment relations literature with a focus on institutions and power, the article breaks new theoretical ground by demonstrating how the social organization of ideas is a key intermediary in explaining employment relations change and continuity.

About the speaker

Marco’s research in the area of international and comparative employment relations focuses on collective actors, including labour unions, European Works Councils and employer organisations, inquiring how collective action is possible and results in collaborative advantages. He won an ESRC Future Research Leader grant for a study on UK employer organisations and his current project, funded by the Hans Böckler Foundation, extends this research to the European level, focusing on European employer organisations.

Full details can be downloaded here.


Seminars and events 2022-23

Resolving the creative paradox:
A mixed methods study on labour in the Creative Industries

Petar Marčeta AIAS-HSI Institute, University of Amsterdam

Date: Monday 14th November 2022
Time: 13:00 – 14:00
Room: AMBS 3.008
Tea and coffee will be available in 3.008 from 12:45


One of the key contradictions in the contemporary world of work can be found between the rising expectations from and values ascribed to work (such as self-expression and autonomy) and the flexibilization and de-standardization of work, which are exposing a growing number of workers to precarity, making these expectations and values less attainable. This study investigates these contradictions in the Creative Industries, which are often thought to be at the forefront of such developments. Here we consider the “creative paradox”, a situation where creative work is at once a source of satisfaction and desirability and insecurity and adverse working conditions.

The first part of the mixed methods study is concerned with the question what are the preferences of creative workers in terms of their working conditions, and it is comprised of a vignette survey of (self)employed designers and architects in Netherlands (n=129). The study finds a clear preferences among creative workers for non-material values of work such as autonomy and self-expression, compared to material rewards such as pay and benefits, even when controlled for levels of precarity experienced by respondents.
The second part of study explores the question of how creative workers seek to fulfil their preferences in spite of the precarious conditions they are exposed to, by using semi-structured interviews with designers and architects in the Netherlands and UK. The study discusses three key mechanisms, their potential as well as obstacles: entrepreneurial labour, boundary work and collective action, arguing that while creative workers are oriented towards individualistic responses, a potential for collective action remains.

About the speaker

Petar Marčeta is a PhD candidate at the AIAS-HSI Institute at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. His main research interests are the contemporary transformations and crises of capitalism and its implications for labour and collective action. He has previously written on the platform economy and trade unions, and his current research focuses on labour issues in the creative industries, in particular in the architecture and design sectors.

Work-related violence and aggression

Violence and harassment against domestic workers in Mexico (Fernanda Teixeira)

Domestic workers – the vast majority are women – are among the workers most vulnerable to verbal, physical and sexual violence and harassment at work. The lack of co-workers and labour inspection not only make domestic workers’ workplaces (private homes) unique but also contribute to making them particularly vulnerable to violent conduct by employers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, with many workers being forced to spend more time with their employers and some workers being prevented from leaving their workplaces, cases of work-related abuse, aggression, humiliation, discrimination, deprivation, and intimidation multiplied and gained greater media attention. Based on interviews with domestic workers and newspaper content analysis, I discuss how the pandemic resulted in the deterioration of domestic workers’ labour experiences in Mexico. I argue that more than a problem of individual “bad” employers, violence and harassment against domestic workers are deeply rooted in the social devaluation that plagues this occupation.

Fernanda Teixeira is a PhD researcher at WEI. Her research examines the changes and continuities in the work and employment conditions of domestic workers in Mexico during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of digital labour platforms. She is particularly interested in issues related to labour exploitation, violence and harassment in the domestic work sector.

Third-party work-related violence and aggression (Sheena Johnson, Kara Ng)

Third-party work-related violence and aggression (WVA) describes mistreatment from non-colleague contacts such as clients, customers, or members of the public. Workers subject to WVA often experience mental and physical health problems; these effects can go on to harm the organisation, e.g. many affected workers report higher turnover intention. The problem is particularly prevalent in sectors where employees regularly interact with the public (e.g. retail, healthcare). Worryingly, there is evidence that WVA has risen with the advent of COVID-19.
To address a lack of understanding of third-party WVA, we developed a collaborative research project with the Health and Safety Executive to investigate the extent of third-party WVA in Great Britain and find ways to improve reporting. Three workshops, and interviews with sector representatives have been completed. Findings suggest a rise in third-party WVA even prior to COVID-19, which has exacerbated the severity of incidents. Many representatives reported that workers fail to report incidents for several reasons, including: confusion over complex reporting systems; a lack of time at work to report; and beliefs that WVA is ‘part of the job’ and nothing will be done. Representatives shared organisational barriers and offered solutions to overcome them.

Dr Sheena Johnson is Professor of Work Psychology and Wellbeing at Alliance Manchester Business School, and an Occupational and Chartered Psychologist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Her research focusses on health and wellbeing at work, and the ageing workforce.

Dr Kara Ng is a Presidential Fellow in Organisational Psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School. Her research focuses on understanding workplace mistreatment, particularly workplace bullying. She is especially interested how bystanders can influence the progression of mistreatment.

Seminars and events 2021-22

Does Work Still Pay? Unpaid Labour Regimes, Precarious Work and Strategies of Reputation in the Platform Economy

Valeria Pulignano, Professor of Sociology
Center for Sociological Research (CESO), KU Leuven


How does unpaid labour account for precarious work within labour platforms? This paper answers this question by focusing on the platforms’ market strategies of reputation and examines how they are deployed through digital technologies within platforms. By drawing on a comparison of on-location (food delivery) and online (freelancing) platforms in Belgium, the Netherlands and France, which relies on a multi-method research design consisting of work-focused narrative interviews and working diaries with workers and freelancers in labour platforms, the paper explains how precarious work unfolds from the ‘open’ and ‘closed’ regimes of unpaid, which re-commodify or de-commodify labour by affecting the autonomy of the employees in the conduct of their work. We illustrate this is due to these regimes relying on platforms’ strategies of reputation, which shape employees’ access to work, and which result from different forms of embeddedness of the digital technologies within the ‘triadic’ employees, customers and platforms relationships.

About the speaker

Valeria Pulignano is Professor of Sociology at the Center for Sociological Research (CESO) at KU Leuven. Her research lies in employment (industrial) relations and labour markets, their changing nature and implications for voice at work, precarious work and inequality as differences in wages, working conditions, job quality and wellbeing at a comparative level in Europe. She is currently coordinating an ERC AdG ResPecTMe research project on “Resolving Precariousness: Advancing the Theory and Measurement of Precariousness Across the Paid/Unpaid Continuum” see and she is also Partner in the EU WorkYP “Working and Yet Poor”. Her recent books include Shifting Solidarities. (2020, Palgrave-MacMillan) with I. Van Hoyweghen and G. Meyers and Reconstructing Solidarity (2018, Oxford University Press) with Doellgast V. and Lillie N.

Full details can be downloaded here.

Impact and engagement - internal seminar

How to translate research work into something that will engage the wider public.

Session led by Debra Howcroft, Aristea Koukiadaki, Sheena Johnson and and Mat Johnson.

View the slides.

Wednesday 26 January 2022


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.

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