Led up the tribunal path? Employment disputes, legal consciousness and trust in the protection of law

Nicole Busby, Eleanor Kirk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Downloads (Pure)


This article explores legal consciousness through a consideration of the trust that workers extend to employment law to protect them, and how they react when their expectations are frustrated, tracing evolving legal dispositions and reflections upon the boundaries of legality. The article uses data from a large-scale research project to explore these themes. Clients of Citizens Advice Bureaux were case-tracked as they attempted to resolve work-related disputes. Generally participants trusted employment law to be ‘there’ for them, rarely anticipating the limits and conditionality of various rights, or the considerable difficulties that can accompany their enforcement. Frustrated expectations were met with varying degrees of acceptance and fatalism through to cynicism, with the redirection of grievances towards collectivised dissent or activism being exceptionally rare. People tend to engage with employment law in ways that legitimate institutions and reaffirm a system that, for a variety of reasons, offers weak protection and enforcement.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalOñati Socio-Legal Series
Issue number7
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Nov 2017


  • employment disputes
  • tribunals
  • legal consciousness
  • false consciousness
  • hegemony

Cite this