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Hand Car Washes across Bristol RPM

Work, Informalisation and Place



The Work, Informalisation and Place research group (WIP) provides methodologically innovative interdisciplinary studies of contemporary work and employment in sectors such as hand car washes, nail bars, and small-scale garment manufacturing. Work in these sectors tends towards casualisation and informalisation where workers operate under business models that embed patterns of labour market exploitation. Exploitation includes wage theft, under payment of the national minimum wage through to modern slavery where employer coercion centres on work for favours, labour bondage and tied labour in unsafe workplaces.

We work with the Director of Labour Market Enforcement at BEIS, the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority and the Responsible Car Wash Scheme. WIP's research team is currently working on a large-scale project to map and risk classify hand car wash sites in England and Wales. This project develops our empirical research on the workplace and employment relations characteristics of hand car washes in the east midlands by providing clear and accurate labour market intelligence-led research findings. In turn, these create a predictive dimension built on expertise developed across a range of research projects at NTU that will enable regulators to target their limited resources effectively.

Our research expertise enables us to study contemporary patterns of work in many sectors of employment, determine the extent to which informalisation is a feature and examine a sector through a place-based methodology centred on a city, a county or region, a district or a suburb. We present our research at world-leading conferences such as European Group for Organizational Studies, and the International Labour Process Conference. We publish our research in world-leading and internationally recognised journals and provide bespoke confidential research intelligence led reports and presentations for regulators and other stakeholders.

Our work is currently themed into three strands exploring informalised labour and work, regulation and enforcement and spatial analysis of informalised work opportunities. Please contact us for more information.

Related Staff

The following staff are involved in the work of the WIP Research Group:


Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority

Alongside the GLAA we are exploring how to identify and tackle problematic informal work activity across the UK. We have shared our research on hand car washes and established a programme of work to inform their work to tackle bad and illegal practice in the UK. Two of the Research Group are members of the GLAA's Labour Provider and Labour User Liaison Group.

Director of Labour Market Enforcement

We have worked with the last Director of Labour Market Enforcement to provide evidence and support for the last two strategies presented to Government. We are also now working with the current Director sharing our research and insights ahead of the next strategy.

Related Projects

Understanding the spatial dimensions of hand car washes across the UK

This project has combined group members' expertise in industrial relations, informal work and spatial mapping to further our understanding of this sector and the challenges within it.  Working with partners we have begun to explore how our research can inform policy and practice.

Exploring how spatial factors affect vulnerable workers – a pilot study into nail bars

Taking our expertise from the hand car wash sector we are beginning to validate our approach with nail bars, another problematic sector identified by the GLAA and the DLME.

Media and Research Activity

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