Melbourne Law School - Research Publications

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    COVID-19 and the Australian labour market: how did older Australians fare during 2020?
    Fry, J ; Temple, J ; McDonald, P ; Blackham, A (Australian Population Studies, 2021)
    Background   In analysing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labour market, attention has focussed on younger people, leaving a research gap when it comes to outcomes for older Australians aged 50 years or over, in terms of employment, unemployment, underemployment and hours worked. Aims   To describe levels of labour force participation, unemployment, underemployment, and hours worked by older workers and job seekers during 2020. Data and methods   Using Australian Bureau of Statistics data, we perform descriptive analyses of variations in labour market outcomes by geographic areas, public and private sector employment, industry of employment and demographic characteristics. Results   Older employment fell in April but recovered by December. As the full-time share initially increased, average hours worked decreased due to reductions in hours offered to workers, increasing the underemployment rate. There was little recovery of employment in metropolitan Melbourne due to prolonged lockdown conditions. Of the largest industries, retail trade and manufacturing were worst affected.
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    GUEST EDITORIAL Introduction to the Special Issue Using Transparency to Achieve Equality
    Allen, D ; Blackham, A (La Trobe University, 2021-09-09)
    This Guest Editorial introduces a Special Issue of Law in Context which considers how the collection of large-scale data by government entities and organisations might advance the equality agenda across diverse areas of public life, and how best to manage the risks of this emerging strategy. Drawing on interdisciplinary perspectives and the insights of policymakers, the articles and comments listed below seek to develop new principles to guide government and organisational activity in this novel endeavour.
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    Positive Equality Duties: The Future of Equality and Transparency?
    Blackham, A (La Trobe University, 2021)
    Transparency is a radical expectation in the context of equality law. In a system highly dependent on individual en-forcement, the lack of transparency in individual claiming dramatically limits the potential of equality law to achieve systemic change. Overcoming discrimination that is systemic, embedded, and pervasive requires moving beyond confidential mechanisms for addressing discrimination. Given that the implementation of workplace equality law occurs in practice at the organisational level, there is a growing need to focus on what employers are actually doing to achieve equality, and how their practices are accountable to those affected and the broader community. In this paper, drawing on case studies from the United Kingdom and Australia, I consider how corporate and governmental transparency might be extended to equality and discrimination, by embedding such obligations within positive equality duties. I consider how the publication of equality information under the Public Sector Equality Duty in the UK, and more limited gender pay gap reporting in the UK and Australia, have promoted transparency and addressed inequality. Considering theories of targeted transparency and action cycles, I put forward five key criteria to make transparency via positive equality duties effective. I consider the limitations of existing models, and put forward suggestions for how transparency might be better embedded and enacted in future positive equality duties.
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    Does removing default retirement ages benefit individuals? A comparative empirical case study of the university sector
    Blackham, A (SAGE Publications, 2021)
    In 2011, the UK government abolished the national default retirement age. While this could support extended working lives and promote individual choice, it could also be a neoliberal ‘ploy’ to individualise the risks of old age. The question, then, is what impact does the removal of mandatory retirement have in practice: does it help to promote individual choice and autonomy? Or does it simply lead to work intensification and the individualisation of the risks of demographic change? Or both, perhaps simultaneously? Drawing on original qualitative and quantitative empirical data from UK and USA universities, this article considers the impact of removing mandatory retirement ages on individual workers in higher education. It argues that legal reform may have promoted or encouraged work intensification in universities, including through an increased focus and use of performance management. Thus, in practice, the consequences of removing retirement ages for individuals are mixed.
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    Enforcing Rights in Employment Tribunals: Insights from Age Discrimination Claims in a New ‘Dataset’
    Blackham, A (Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2021)
    The online publication of Employment Tribunal (ET) decisions in England, Wales and Scotland marks a watershed moment, opening up new innovative avenues for legal research, and promoting transparency in labour law decision-making. Drawing on this ‘dataset’, and using age discrimination decisions as a lens to facilitate analysis, this paper reflects on the advantages and limitations of using online ET decisions as a data source to support labour law research. By considering matters of time in age discrimination decisions – both in relation to time limits for bringing a claim, and ET delays – this paper uses innovative empirical findings to map the limits of the individual enforcement model adopted by discrimination laws, and illustrates some of the barriers to successfully bringing a claim for discrimination.
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    Intersectional Discrimination in Australia: An Empirical Critique of the Legal Framework
    Blackham, A ; Temple, J (Law School, University of New South Wales, 2020)
    Australian equality law is still largely dependent on individual enforcement to achieve systemic change. The degree to which discrimination law acknowledges and accommodates intersectional discrimination is a question of growing pertinence. This article bridges theoretical scholarship on intersectionality and empirical statistical evidence of how people experience discrimination in Australia, drawing on data from the 2014 General Social Survey, to critically evaluate the extent to which Australian discrimination law is able to accommodate intersectional experiences of discrimination. We argue that there is a fundamental disconnect between the legal framework, which focuses on separate and distinct ‘grounds’ of discrimination, and how people actually experience discrimination in practice, which is multiple and overlapping. This article offers concrete suggestions for how the legal framework and data collection could be improved to better integrate intersectionality in Australian discrimination law.
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    Why Do Employment Age Discrimination Cases Fail? An Analysis of Australian Case Law
    Blackham, A (Sydney Law School, 2020)
    Employment age discrimination cases are notoriously unsuccessful in Australia. While it is arguable that most strong cases are settled through conciliation, serious questions remain: are those cases that proceed to the courts particularly weak? Or are there procedural or substantive legal hurdles that operate as barriers to the success of claims? As the first rigorous study of age discrimination case law across all Australian jurisdictions, this article evaluates these two questions, drawing on employment age discrimination case law at federal, state and territory level up to 2017. This article interrogates and maps, both qualitatively and quantitatively, potential legal barriers to age discrimination claims. It offers original and innovative insights into the cases that proceed to court, and why they fail. It argues that while some cases may be weak, there appear to be procedural and substantive hurdles that limit the success of age discrimination cases. This article offers compelling evidence of the need for legal reform, or for a more sympathetic interpretation of existing statutes by the courts, if individual enforcement is to be used as a means of addressing age discrimination.
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    Reforming Responses to the Challenges of Judicial Incapacity
    Lynch, A ; Blackham, A (Sage Publications, 2020-06-01)
    Judicial incapacity, while under-researched, presents unique challenges for supporting and responding to issues of judicial performance. In this article, we argue for a reconceptualisation of this topic based on contemporary theories of socially-constructed disability and principles of anti-discrimination law. While assisting and supporting judicial officers who are attempting to work with a disability or ongoing health issue will always be complex, this reconceptualisation offers heads of jurisdiction, conduct commissions and parliamentarians, who retain the ultimate sanction of removal, the opportunity to craft a surer guide for handling cases of incapacity. This will not only better serve the individual concerned, affording them greater agency and dignity than has traditionally been the case, but also protect the principle of judicial independence.
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    Unpacking precarious academic work in legal education
    Blackham, A (ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2020-02-10)
    Precarious work is becoming increasingly prevalent in academe, as tenured opportunities diminish and university employment practices adapt to a volatile and internationalised funding context. This article explores the notion of precarious work as it applies to academic work, particularly in the context of legal education. It analyses available statistical evidence to map and unpack the prevalence of precarious work in higher education in the United Kingdom and Australia. Drawing on an original empirical survey of law academics in the UK and Australia, the article examines the implications of increasing employment precarity for legal education.