The relationship between law and employment has been a major issue within British law through both the 19th century and the 20th century. The main focus being on how much the governmentshould intervene in both the running and control of British industrial relations. Issues such as the political party which is in government at the time and the level of unemployment have a considerable influence on the amount of intervention the government makes. The aim of the government is to ensure that the power balance between the trade unions and employers is kept at a specific level in accordance with the times. During the 19th century and most of the 20th century a system which concerns the relationship between law and employment a major factor in the development of trade unions and collective bargaining shaped legislation surrounding industrial relations. Trade unions and employers played a relatively equal role in determining the contracts of employment of the workforce. There was no definite legal background within the system; this was so much so that it was thought at the time that unions gave more cover to employees than what the law offered. However, this free-market approach came to an end in the post 1945 period at a time of tight labour markets and excessive trade union power.
The government intervened to disrupt a ‘stop-go’ cycle which was caused by strikes, inflationary wage settlements and repression upon productivity improvements. The government’s objectives were to encourage productivity progress and contain wages and prices. At this time the government required more control in the long-term and, therefore, set about in,firstly, centralising the authority of trade unions, secondly, devolving trade union control of officials and, thirdly, attempt to put collective bargaining on a lower level. By 1971-74, the then Labour government attempted to put employment law on a completely different level by shaping the legal .