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Durham Law: Policy Engagement

Our Mission

One of the major challenges of the 21st century is to ensure that workers across the world labour in 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 for the next 15 years. It has highlighted the eradication of forced labour and the protection of labour rights as major priorities for governments, private organisations and policy-makers.

We believe that effective labour regulation is essential if we are to achieve these aims. But what might that regulation look like?

The Unacceptable Forms of Work project has been set up to investigate important qustions 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?

As well as "Decent Work" - we cover 8 other Sustainable Development Goals throughout our project:


As we speak, dedicated people from around the world are attempting to address Unacceptable Forms of Work. Some are government policy-makers, some are researchers, while others are activists striving to make their communities better. We aim to find out more about the approaches that are being taken locally and globally and discuss whether the successful ideas can be applied elsewhere.

Our project is building an international network of researchers and policy-makers with knowledge and understanding of what’s happening in communities worldwide. We are bringing together experts from different disciplines, working in both developed and developing countries. By identifying the most innovative approaches to labour regulation, we are testing whether these strategies have achieved what they intended and whether they offer hope for the protection of workers rights on a more global level.


Effective labour regulation is not one-size-fits-all. It needs to respond to the conditions and culture of the local area, and be rigorously and regularly tested to ensure it achieves its aim. However, we can often be inspired by successes elsewhere. Our approach is to “pair” countries from different regions and income levels and investigate how they are each tackling a particular theme of Unacceptable Work. The team working in each group will assess initiatives and regulations that have been implemented to tackle the issue, and the relative success of each.In this way, we can uncover the most interesting national and international interventions, and determine whether they can be adapted or expanded.

This project is the result of years of work by Professor Deirdre McCann of Durham Law School and Professor Judy Fudge of Kent Law School. They are joined by international co-investigator Dr Sangheon Lee of the International Labour Organisation.

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