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Employment in Public Services: The Case for Special Treatment

Posted: 29 Feb 2008  

Gillian S. Morris

Brunel University London - Brunel Law School


Traditionally many systems subjected public employees to a separate and more restrictive labour law regime than their private sector counterparts. However, these status-based restrictions were generally modified or abandoned during the 1960s and 1970s. Greater homogeneity of treatment of public and private sector workers was also subsequently reflected in employment practices in Britain and elsewhere as a product of the 'marketization' of public services, a strategy which involved replacing centralized regulation by greater local determination in accordance with 'business' needs. More radically, the provision of some public services was removed from the public sector altogether, either by contracting out particular elements of the service or by wholesale privatization, subject to some form of regulatory regime. These changes may appear to render otiose discussion of the case for special treatment of the employment relation in public services. This article expounds the proposition that, on the contrary, public services possess distinctive qualities which necessitate regulation of the employment relationship within those services in areas beyond those covered by the general law, and aims to provide a framework within which the justification for specific additional measures can be assessed. The article also considers the further questions which need to be addressed if the framework it proposes is accepted, including, in particular, the appropriate mechanisms for imposing and enforcing regulation.

Suggested Citation

Morris, Gillian S., Employment in Public Services: The Case for Special Treatment. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 167-183, 2000. Available at SSRN:

Gillian S. Morris (Contact Author)

Brunel University London - Brunel Law School ( email )

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Elliott Jaques Building
Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH
United Kingdom
+44 1895 263432 (Phone)

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