Skip to main content
Register here

17 November 2021 - 17 November 2021

12:00PM - 2:00PM

Zoom - Link to be sent on 12th November

  • Free

Share page:
This is the image alt text person on way to work

The first Research Conversation addresses issues of Work and Health and Wellbeing aimed at increasing our knowledge and understanding of how work and the workplace can have an impact on people’s health and wellbeing. The participants of this research conversation are invited to identify and discuss ‘burning’ work and health and wellbeing problems.

COVID-19 has affected us all, but some have fared worse than others simply because of the jobs they do and the insecurity of their living conditions and livelihoods. People who have been hit the hardest are also among those least protected by national policies and systems, and the pandemic has brought their precarious situation into sharp focus (WHO/Europe).

The coronavirus pandemic let to an increased attention to people’s health and raises some urgent questions about healthy work and workplaces. The pandemic has also exposed existing health inequalities and the importance of life circumstances and conditions in which people live to individual health and quality of life.

This event aims to start an interdisciplinary conversation and open exchange of ideas that may lead to successful interdisciplinary collaboration and research tackling work-driven health problems jointly.

The research conversation encourages an encompassing debate considering the complexity and interrelatedness of the wider determinants of health. Exploring how different types of working affect worker health and wellbeing and how to reduce the risk of health problems.

The invited speakers will give a 15-Minute Talk, this is followed by a guided discussion session and a networking session.

Invited Speakers:

· Professor Sarah Curtis, Durham University

· Professor Deirdre McCann, Durham University 

· Rob Miguel, Unite the Union, National Health & Safety Advisor



Work, Health and Wellbeing: Labour Market Changes as Wider Determinants of Health

Professor Sarah Curtis FBA, FAcSS FRSE,

Professor Emerita, Durham University, and Honorary Professor, University of Edinburgh


This short talk will summarise ideas about the wider determinants of health, with a particular focus on how trends in local labour markets relate to change in individual health. The theme

will be illustrated by an example of research published in collaboration with a multidisciplinary group of co-authors. This examined data on self reported health for over 300,000 individuals, drawn from the Longitudinal Study, (a representative sample from the national Census), linked to information on local trends in employment rates across England and Wales following the ‘great recession’. This study will be summarised to provoke discussion about the potential for future multidisciplinary research on work, health and wellbeing, with a focus on possible future developments in labour markets.

Sarah Curtis: Biographical Note

My research elucidates the socio-geographical processes producing inequalities in physical and mental health over the lifecourse. Much of the research I have led and participated in has been interdisciplinary, spanning various fields in Natural Sciences, Medicine and Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities. I have extensive experience in a range of research methods including statistical analysis of large data sets and data linkage, and participative research applied in qualitative studies. I have taught undergraduates and supervised and examined doctoral students. Having retired in 2016, I am currently Professor Emerita at Durham University and Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh, I have continued working on ESRC funded research and postgraduate training. My activities as Fellow of the British Academy have included membership of the Public Policy Committee, and research communication activities relating to work on health, wellbeing and place, including running seminars. Other Public Engagement activities include the Royal Society of Edinburgh ‘Curious’ programme and the Edinburgh Science Festival. I participate in the Voluntary Health Forum which engages voluntary organisations, researchers and cross-party representatives from Scottish Parliament.



Regulated casualisation: working time, decent work, and the Supreme Court judgments in Mencap and Uber 

Professor Deirdre McCann

Durham Law School


Casualisation of labour relations is both rapidly evolving and threatening to wellbeing in working life. Towards robust policy responses, it is crucial accurately to understand the range of forms of casualised work, including how casualisation is channelled through, or curbed by, labour law regimes. This presentation focuses on the, often neglected, temporal dimension of casualisation. It considers two recent labour law decisions of the UK Supreme Court: on the private hire sector (Uber, February 2021) and social care (Mencap, March 2021). Through these judgments, the presentation explores how UK labour law embeds divergent notions of ‘working time,’ including to the detriment of workers in the care sector. This juxtaposition of Mencap and Uber highlights the limitations of dominant/gendered conceptualisations of ‘the gig economy’; the risks of an exclusive focus on employment status as the legal vector of, and solution to, casualisation; the treatment of essential workers in COVID-19; and potential legal strategies on casualisation that can sustain decent work and the wellbeing of workers and their families.

Deirdre McCann: Biographical Note:

Deirdre McCann is a Professor of Law at Durham Law School. Her research is in the field of labour law and policy at the domestic and international levels. Her work has a particular focus on the regulation of precarious work, the measurement and comparison of labour law regimes, and the influence of state norms in low-income settings. Professor McCann is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, a member of the Editorial Committee of the Industrial Law Journal, and a former official of the UN International Labour Organization. Since 2017 she has lead the ESRC/GCRF-funded project on Decent Work Regulation. In 2021 she was appointed to the ILO’s Advisory Group of Experts on International Labour Standards for the standard-setting process on quality apprenticeships.


Working through COVID 19 as seen by Unite Workplace Representatives

Rob Miguel

National Health and Safety Advisor, Unite Union.


The Covid-19 pandemic has had, and is having, a devastating impact. Unite workplace representatives (reps) are at the forefront of dealing with the crisis at work representing members who have continued to work through this pandemic.

In May 2020 Unite published the results of a survey – the first of its kind - of Unite reps reporting on their valuable insights into how the crisis was being dealt with and what should happen next. Rob Miguel organised a further survey in March through to April 2021 which was distributed to all Unite reps in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Rob Miguel will set out the findings and other relevant experiences, setting the scene for discussion.

Rob Miguel: Biographical Note:

Trade Unionist for over 40 years, representing and advising across several national roles within the union: health and safety, education and industrial relations. Representing Unite on many national and international committees, undertaking various work streams.

Research Conversation Registration:

This Research Conversation will be facilitated by Dr Barbara Bechter, Durham University Business School. If you want to get involved, please register here for the Research Conversation by 12 November 2021.