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LAW8587 : Law, Digital Labour Platforms and Workers’ Rights

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Neha Vyas
  • Owning School: Newcastle Law School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This course intends to provide students with critical insight into the legal, policy, and socioeconomic concerns stemming from the digitalisation of work. Digital labour platforms have played an important role in job creation and providing flexibility to workers all over the world, especially during the COVID- 19 pandemic. The working conditions of the platform workers, however, are quite deplorable. The inefficacious legal protection and the discretionary power of platforms combined with automated decision-making make it imperative to critically reflect on the new forms of employment. Therefore, this course aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the unique challenges to workers’ rights in light of the fourth industrial revolution.

Students will gain an understanding of the employment law issues in the platform economy such as misclassification of employees, inadequate social protection, unpaid work, unfair contractual terms, and so on. Since algorithms determine the fate of platform workers, the course is designed to provide the students with advanced knowledge of the legal aspects of algorithmic accountability with a specific focus on digital platforms. The historical patterns of inequalities are reflected through algorithms which can lead to discrimination towards workers belonging to marginalised sections of society. The course addresses discrimination encountered by platform workers from an intersectional perspective. Furthermore, there is a specific focus on the labour force participation of women in the platform economy and the peculiar impediments in achieving gender equality. In order to explain the ‘informalisation’ of the workforce due to the digital transformation and deliberate upon the legal and policy solutions to protect workers’ rights, the course is designed to embed a comparative labour law perspective.

The course outlines the interconnectedness of labour & employment law with other areas of law like data protection law, antidiscrimination law, and competition law with a particular focus on ‘workers’ rights’. It gives a holistic view of the impact of digital transformation on the future of work. Hence, it is complementary to the other modules offered for the Emerging Technologies and the Law LLM course.

Outline Of Syllabus

1. Theoretical underpinnings of ‘Digital labour platforms’ – legal concepts and definitions
2. Legislative and jurisprudential discourse (the UK and the EU) on digital labour platforms
3. Employment status of platform workers and access to ‘decent work’
4. Working conditions of platform workers
5. Digital labour platforms, algorithmic management, and regulatory challenges
6. Privacy rights of workers, data protection, and digital surveillance
7. Algorithmic bias, antidiscrimination law, and workers’ rights
8. Women, work, and the platform economy
9. The role of trade unions in promoting workers’ rights on digital platforms
10. Digital labour platforms - The divide between the developed (the UK and the EU) and emerging economies (India and South Africa).

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion601:0060:00Topic selection for the assignment, conducting a literature review, and undertaking extensive research in preparation for the different components of the assignment.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:00In-person classes
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities41:306:00Group discussion/group presentation on topics/problem statements decided by the module leader
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading251:0025:00Going through additional reading materials before attending the lectures as well as in preparation for the academic skills activities
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery51:005:00For specific queries regarding the content of the module and the topic selection for the assignments.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study841:0084:00Self-study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The teaching for this module will be conducted through a combination of lectures, group discussions, and critical dialogues. Furthermore, there will be a number of drop-in/surgery hours, where students can ask questions regarding course content, specific readings, research material, research topics, or preparation relating to the assessment for the module. Students’ active participation and discussion will be facilitated by the structured research and reading activities, where students will be provided with a piece (e.g., policy paper, case law, academic article, etc.) and will be expected to read it, reflect on the arguments provided, conduct research on legal databases or other resources relating to the arguments raised, identify counterarguments in the literature, and critically assess the opinions expressed on this specific issue. Following this work, students will be expected to prepare a small presentation to be given in their chosen session to present and explain their findings. Furthermore, students will be able to take academic skills activities that can be used to test their knowledge and understanding of the factual content of the module. Directed research and reading will be prepared for each session, which will allow students to develop greater insight into the areas of legal research discussed in the lecture, with an additional reading list provided on Canvas with further readings. These reading materials can also be used by students to draft their research proposal during their assessment preparation and completion, for which detailed instructions and feedback (when requested) will be provided.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper2M1003000 words
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2MAbstract - 250 words (70%)
Poster2M5-minute poster presentation based on the abstract (30%)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The module leader will give 4 broad research themes covering contemporary issues in the field of Law, digital labour platforms, and workers’ rights. Students can choose the research theme and narrow it down to a specific topic on which they want to write the research article. They can choose any jurisdiction for their research or decide upon a topic that is relevant from the international or comparative labour law perspective. They are also encouraged to establish a connection between labour law and other areas of law (for instance, competition law, data protection law, antidiscrimination law, and so on). They can also incorporate insights from other disciplines. After deciding on the topic, they should submit it to the module leader for approval. Students can contact the module leader during the designated time to discuss their chosen topic and its viability.

Following this, there will be a comprehensive interim assessment (Assignment 1) to gauge students’ understanding of the subject as well as to receive their feedback. The assignment is divided into two parts.
For the first component, the students should submit a 500-word abstract which should include a brief introduction, research questions and research methodology on the topic decided for the 2500-word research paper. Students will be able to practice their analytical and research skills by selecting a relevant topic and starting the literature review on the topic. It will also encourage the students to use different research methods and approaches and put them into the context of the module.

The second component of the assessment is a 5-minute poster presentation of the abstract. A poster presentation is a creative way to present a complex idea in a short duration. The presentation will also provide the students with constructive feedback from the module leader as well as their peers. Such feedback will help them in preparing the research article in an effective manner. They will also get the opportunity to practice their communication skills in a group setting.

For Assignment 2, students are expected to write a 3000-word research paper. Through these assignments, students will have the opportunity to sharpen their research and analytical skills, critical thinking capabilities as well as verbal and written skills.

Reading Lists