Date(s) - 20 May
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm


  • Prof Valeria Pulignano (KU Leuven) on Emerging ‘Grey Zones’ at the Interface of Work and Home: Advancing Research and Theory on Precarious Work (with Glenn Morgan, Univ. Bristol)
  • Prof Patricia Leighton (University of South Wales) on Precarious working: causes, complexities and responses, but maybe better ways forward?

This virtual London BUIRA seminar is focused on the transformation of the employment relation and we are fortunate to have two expert speakers. Valeria Pulignano addresses the challenge posed by the growth of precarious work to generate significant rethinking of the future directions of work. Especially, it requires a focus on the increasing importance of ‘grey zones’ at the interface between the sphere of public (paid) work and private home (domestic) work. Between these two spheres, a series of ‘grey zones’ is emerging, characterised by work that is unpaid but necessary to engage in the public sphere of paid work. At the same time, this work relies on a private sphere that can support such ‘grey zones’, often by making the domestic sphere more oriented to the marketability of its participants. A distinctive framework is presented for understanding the reconfiguration of precarious work.

This is followed by Patricia Leighton, who will speak about her recent book with Tui McKeown, Work in Challenging and Uncertain Times: the changing employment relationship (2020). This identified a range of issues, from ‘fragmentation’ in relationships, health and wellbeing, insecurities, skills development and the use of technology. COVID-19 has worsened the position of those already precarious in areas such as hospitality, ‘bank nurses’, supply teachers and interpreters. The Taylor Report, 2017, proposed new ‘rights’ to redress the situation but legislation has had limited effect, especially with COVID and with contract law limiting protections and liabilities. This raises the question: Is it better to impose duties and responsibilities on the beneficiaries of labour markets than provide hard to enforce rights and will new types of unionism have a key role to play?

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 and inequality as differences in wages, working conditions, job quality and wellbeing. 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” and she is also Partner in the EU WorkYP “Working and Yet Poor”. Among her recent books is Shifting Solidarities (2020, Palgrave-MacMillan) with I Van Hoyweghen and G Meyers.

Patricia Leighton is Professor Emeritus at the University of South Wales, UK – former Jean Monnet Professor of European Law. She is currently Professor of European Law at the IPAG Business School, France and a member of their research group. Her research and publishing interests are employment relationships, atypical contracts and self-employment. She has undertaken a wide range of projects funded by governmental and public bodies including the European Commission and ILO, and is the author of several books on employment contracts and their management.

The seminar is an opportunity to air and discuss these issues in an open forum and consider their implications for industrial relations. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.