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Durham University

Durham Law: Policy Engagement

Our Aims

One of the major challenges of the 21st century is to ensure that workers across the world have working conditions that:

  • respect their fundamental rights;
  • do not risk their wellbeing;
  • are secure and fairly remunerated.

The United Nations has included Decent Work among its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We believe that effective labour regulation is essential if we are to achieve these aims. But what forms should this regulation take?

The Unacceptable Forms of Work project was established to investigate important questions at the heart of this problem such as:

  • What are the factors that cause Unacceptable Forms of Work to take root?
  • What kinds of regulation can make an impact?
  • Can these local regulations be applied elsewhere?
  • Can global solutions be agreed?

The project cross-cuts a number of the SDGs and integrated solutions are essential:


Dedicated people across the world are attempting to combat unacceptable work. Some are policy-makers, some are researchers, while others are activists striving to improve their communities. Our aim is to find out more about the approaches that are being taken locally and globally, and to consider whether successful experiments can be applied elsewhere.

Our project brings together an international network of researchers and policy-makers with new ideas about protecting labour rights. We have brought together researchers from a range of disciplines who are based in both higher- and low-income countries, who are identifying the most innovative approaches to labour regulation.


Effective labour regulation is not one-size-fits-all. It needs to respond to the conditions and culture of the local setting, and be rigorously tested to ensure that it achieves its aim. However, we can often be inspired by successes elsewhere. Our approach is to compare countries from different regions and income levels and investigate how they are each tackling the global challenges to effective labour laws. In this way, we can uncover the most interesting national and international interventions, and determine whether they can be adapted or expanded.

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