John is currently working on two major research projects with various collaborators:
1. New Initiatives in Enforcing Employment Standards: Assessing the Effectiveness of Federal Government Compliance Strategies (John Howe and Sean Cooney)
This is an ARC Linkage Project (with partner organisation the Fair Work Ombudsman). The well-being of more than eight million Australian employees is underpinned by statutory workplace entitlements. For the large majority of those employees, these are set by federal legislation. The statutory entitlements are meaningful only in so far as they are complied with, and improving the effectiveness of the federal enforcement agency, the Fair Work Ombudsman, is therefore of crucial public importance. This project provides the first comprehensive scholarly empirical evaluation of the Fair Work Ombudsman. Its findings will identify multiple ways in which enforcement practices can be improved, not only for the Fair Work Ombudsman, but also for comparable compliance agencies domestically and overseas.
2. 'Nothing can be Created out of Nothing': Workers, their Know-how and the Employment Relationships that Support Them' (Chris Arup, Chris Dent, John Howe and William van Caenegem)
Innovation is central to the Australian and global economy. Innovation policy, to date, has focused on high-technology industries and the commercialisation of new products – areas encouraged by current intellectual property laws. This neglects the key contribution of “know-how” to innovation, leaving it to regulation by contractual clauses and industry practice, which may not set appropriate incentives. This empirical project, funded by the ARC, will - through the collection of qualitative data - establish how Australian employers and workers bargain over the fruits of know-how, and whether this promotes innovation. It will suggest, if necessary, reforms to the intellectual property and labour law systems to enhance legal incentives for this form of innovation.
John has an ongoing interest in government deployment of wealth as a form of labour regulation and its intersection with corporate governance and CSR, such as financial subsidies or incentives offered to corporations, public procurement programs, and facilitated 'self-regulation' such as mandatory and default industry codes of practice.
John is also interested in labour law as labour market regulation, or the relationship between conventional labour law and other areas of regulation which impact on the supply and demand of labour. These other areas of regulation include industrial policy, welfare policy, job creation policies, education and training regulation and tax policy. John's research on job creation regulation has made a significant contribution to understanding of the ways in which governments regulate to create jobs. He has also contributed to an international debate among labour law scholars as to whether the field should be redefined or rethought to include regulation beyond the employment relationship, the traditional subject matter of labour law.