EU & arbetsrätt 2 2022

Nordic scholars met to discuss control and surveillance

The new age of control and surveillance in labour law was the theme for a conference arranged by the Nordic Network of Labour Law Scholars (NNLLS) this spring.

The conference was hosted by the labour law group from the Law School of University of Eastern Finland (UEF) and held in Helsinki. The way to Helsinki had been long and twisty. The first NNLLS conference in November 2020 was held solely online, and the organising committee already back then decided to have the next conference as soon as there would be an opportunity to meet face-to-face.

This year’s event was rescheduled more than once, as the effects of the pandemic were much wider and longer than one could ever have expected. To make participation on site easier, there was even a lastminute decision to change the place of the conference from Joensuu at the eastern border of Finland to the more reachable Helsinki. On the last day of March, the conference finally started in hybrid form with altogether around 40 registered participants. Most of them were on the spot and could enjoy the anticipated face-to-face encounters and have informal talks alongside the official programme.

The event was held at the premises of Hanken (Svenska handelshögskolan) where rector Karen Spens in her opening words accentuated the importance of Nordic cooperation in research, especially in such turbulent times that we have now.

The keynote lectures addressed the theme of conference from two different angles, having EU law as a common denominator.

Mia Eklund, who defended her thesis Integritet och övervakning i arbetslivet last year, focused on Article 88 of the GDPR, especially considering the Finnish national employee privacy legislation. She gave a thorough reflection on the possibility to nationally provide for more specific rules on employee privacy. Her criticism was aimed especially at the concept of “consent” in the context of employment relationships.

Susanna Lindroos-Hovinheimo, professor of public law at the University of Helsinki, discussed the EU whistleblowing directive and control. She gave some examples of legislation that has been enacted in different member states, showing how differently the directive has been implemented. She also highlighted that the directive entails a new version of surveillance where the employees act as the controllers of misconduct and malpractice.

The second day started with two abstract presentation sessions. There were eight excellent presentations. The participants heard about control and surveillance in Swedish labour law, an analysis that was inspired by Michel Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish (Erik Grahn), and a court case-based analysis on penalty law in controlling new professionals (Lotti Ryberg-Welander). Presentations on the role of artificial intelligence in employee management processes (Johan Holm) and on social insurances and the workers in the gig economy (Annamaria Westregård) gave us perspectives on the effects of digitalisation in employment.

The more structural questions were addressed in presentations on the new era for the Swedish model, were the social partners act as legislators (Petra Herzfeld Olsson) and on the role of social dialogue in climate change adaptations (Nicole Christiansen). Also, the important topic of working poor was discussed (Ankie Hartzén). Moreover, the participants took a glance at monitoring of employees and its legal limits in the Czech Republic (Adéla Uhrinov) and heard about an ethnographic study on rights of Finnish Somali women to pursue higher education and employment (Rahma Hersi).

The conference ended with a round table discussion on the role of Nordic labour law scholars in European and international institutions. The professors Birgitta Nyström, Niklas Bruun and Stein Evju shared their experiences (and even some anecdotes) as distinguished members of several international organisations.

Thank you all who participated and contributed to the conference. Thanks also to Folke Schmidts minnesfond and UEF Law School, which provided valuable economic support to the conference. The next conference will be held in Sweden in 2024 and hosted by Mikael Hansson at the Uppsala University Law Faculty, Vi ses!

Marjo Ylhäinen, associate professor
University of Eastern Finland

 The NNLLS conference is a pillar of the network activities. If you want to become a member (free of charge) please send your expression of interest specifying your name, title and affiliation to

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