International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations

Volume 18 (2002)

Volume 18 (2002) / Issue 4

Stephen Adler, 'The Role of Judges in the Implementation of Social Policies' (2002) 18 International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, Issue 4, pp. 341–376


This article, based upon the author's general report to the 9th Meeting of European Labour Court Judges (ILO, Geneva, December 2001), discusses the role of Labour Court judges and Labour Courts in the implementation and development of social policy. After surveying the legal sources of social policy and a number of Labour Court ‘models’, comparative experience in various national systems is described and commented upon. The author contends that judges play an important role in the development of social policy, and suggests that, when dealing with issues in this field, Labour Court judges adhere to an agenda which differs from that of judges in the general courts. It is argued that the personal values, beliefs and experiences of judges influence their decisions regarding social policy issues, so that it is important for judges to recognize and articulate the factors influencing their decisions on such matters. To assist with this, the influence of the judge on social policy should be considered when individuals are appointed and trained to exercise their judicial role. The author further argues that Labour Courts can only make a significant contribution to the development of social policy if there is reasonable access to those courts, and that among the factors capable of furthering such access are the efficiency of, and the attitudes displayed by, Labour Court judges themselves. Finally, it is observed that, in an era of decreasing union density, Labour Courts increasingly provide the principal route for workers to enforce their rights, thereby underlining the key role of Labour Court judges in developing social law and furthering access to industrial justice as an important means for the protection of rights at work.

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ISSN: 0952-617X
ID: 5113458