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Employment law reform needed to fix social care in the UK

14 June 2017

Employment Law book and hammer

New research by a Cardiff University academic has offered an innovative and timely insight into the UK’s crisis of social care.

In her book, Stories of care: A labour of law. Gender and class at work, Dr Lydia Hayes of the University’s School of Law and Politics provides the first in-depth study of its kind about homecare workers in the UK.

Tracing the day-to-day sexist attitudes and class-bias that homecare workers encounter, Dr Hayes explores how and why legal protection at work has proven to be so ineffectual.

Framing the UK’s twenty-first century crisis of social care in the context of a longstanding, gendered crisis in the regulation of work, Dr Hayes argues that there are few better examples of the extent to which the state disrespects working-class women than the fact that homecare jobs offer among the worst of wages and working conditions.

Dr Lydia Hayes at book launch

“An important and brilliant book”

At a launch event in London, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC praised the book for ‘lifting a veil’ on connections between the UK’s crisis in social care and the inadequacies of UK employment law, noting that this ‘important and brilliant book … will make a major difference’.

Dr Hayes said: “My purpose with this research was to shed light on the deep, institutionalised humiliation of the homecare workforce and to show how the intellectual reasoning and values expressed in employment law serve to justify poor treatment, low pay, insecurity and the virtual invisibility of homecare workers in public life.”

Three online animations support the book. The first is ‘Cheap Nurse’, which is based on homecare workers’ narratives about low pay.

The second is ‘Two-a-Penny’ which narrates homecare workers’ experiences of insecurity at work.

The third is ‘Mother Superior’ which focuses on homecare workers’ performance of unpaid labour and their caring identities.

Stories of Care: A labour of law. Gender and class at work, Palgrave (2017) is available in paperback, hardback and e-book formats. More information is available here.

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