Rules and Standards in the Workplace: A Perspective from the Field of Labour Law

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Employment rights may be crafted as ‘bright-line’ rules or open-textured standards. Employment rights which are framed at a higher level of generality, such as standards, have not been examined in the same level of detail as rules in labour law scholarship. Standards can be divided into standards of conduct and standards of review. Standards of conduct represent commands to decision makers, such as employers, which enable them to scrutinise their decision making internally; whereas standards of review are addressed to adjudicators whose function it is to scrutinise the conduct of decision makers externally. In the majority of cases, the intensity of scrutiny which is attached to both of these standards will be the same, resulting in conflation. However, there is a general assumption that in adjudicating disputes involving employment rights, the judiciary is overly deferential to the managerial prerogative and this assumption can be corroborated – but also challenged – by an analysis which focuses on standards of review quite separately from standards of conduct. Such an examination reveals situations in which the level of scrutiny exerted externally by the adjudicator pursuant to the standard of review may be less, but also more, acute than that attached to the internal standard of conduct. This paper goes on to evaluate what the degree of intensity of scrutiny attached to standards of conduct and review reveals about employment rights more generally and erects a framework against which the argument about varying intensities of scrutiny can be given greater clarity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-41
Number of pages21
JournalLegal Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • intensities of scrutiny
  • standards of review
  • standards
  • employment law
  • labour law
  • standards of conduct
  • employment rights
  • labour rights
  • rules


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