Dr  Minjie Cai

Dr Minjie Cai BA (Hons), MRes, PhD, CIPD, FHEA

Senior Lecturer in HR and Organisational Behaviour

Dr Minjie Cai is an interdisciplinary scholar in the sociology and political economy of work, employment relations, and human resource management. She completed a PhD in Organisation Studies at Cranfield School of Management after graduating from King’s College London with a Master of Research degree.

Her research primarily focuses on how employment policies, worker representation and managerial practices shape the nature and experiences of work in the context of change, such as crisis management, shifting labour regimes and transitional organisations and economies. She frequently deploys critical theoretical lenses to examine inequality issues in the workplace. Minjie recently published on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on frontline workers and the implications of trade union representation for managing a public health crisis in the workplace.


Best Reviewer Award, Human Resource Management Track, British Academy of Management Conference 2021.

Highly Recommended Paper Award, Human Resource Management Track, British Academy of Management Conference 2019.

Greenwich Student Union Student-led Teaching Award 2020, Extra Miles Category (Nomination)

Faculty Staff Award 2021, Innovative use of Technology for Online Teaching (Nomination)


Co-Chair, Human Resource Management Special Interest Group, British Academy of Management (January 2023-present)

VP Communication, International Federation of Scholarly Associations of Management (September -December 2021)

Communication Officer, Human Resource Management Special Interest Group, British Academy of Management (September 2017- December 2020)

Associate Fellow at the Advance High Education (previously Academy of Higher Education).

Research / Scholarly interests

  • The changing nature of work
  • Inequality in the workplace
  • Worker representations
  • HR decision-making

Key funded projects

Health, safety and racism in the workplace

This project investigated experiences of black frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing a survey and focus group interviews with of black workers and representatives, the research focused on the role unions have played and could play as well as. how black workers feel that their health and safety can best be represented. The findings identified potential barriers to representation and how the Trade Union Congress can support a new generation of black health and safety representatives.

Project length: December 2021 – April 2022

Funder: Trade Union Congress (£14,902)

The role of technology in the changing nature of retail and logistic work

The project offers a labour market analysis and includes interviews with workers in retail, distribution and logistics. The labour market analysis examines the composition of workforces and labour market flux during the COVID-19 pandemic. The interviews reflect the lived experiences of the changing nature of work, examining terms and conditions, the impact of automation and technology on work, and workplace representation. With evidence of post-COVID-19 occupational and sectoral transitions, this is a key moment to explore the changing nature and content of work, and potential renegotiated divisions of labour on the basis of gender, age and race and ethnicity.

Project length: September 2012-April 2022

Funder: Trade Union Congress, UK (£9,900)

Work and crisis management on supermarket frontline in the COVID-19 pandemic

This research examined how supermarket frontline managers and employees perceive and experience crisis management and organisational change amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, supermarket frontline work intensifies with additional health and safety risk, changing customer demands, and new regulations during the pandemic. These challenges have pertinent implications for frontline employees whose contractual status entails 'forced availability' and frontline managers who face competing demands of performance targets, flexible workforce control, and organisational policies that evolve with the pandemic development.

Project length: April 2021- October 2022

Funders: British Academy/Leverhulme Trust (£9,041.60)

The role of health and safety representatives in the COVID-19 pandemic

The project explores the role of trade union health and safety representatives in the UK and changes to representative structures governing workplace and organisational Occupational Health and Safety during COVID-19, drawing upon a survey of UK Trade Union Congress (TUC) Health and Safety representatives, as well as case studies of 12 organisations in eight key sectors.

Project length: November 2020 – November 2021

Funder: The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) COVID-19 Grant (£118,302.85)

Research into COVID-19 workplace safety outcome

This research highlights the weakness of the UK's occupational health and safety infrastructure exposed by the COVID‐19 pandemic. Utilising a political economy perspective, it captures the critical role of workplace union safety representatives in mitigating risk and contesting the expropriation of

health and recommodification of labour, specifically inadequate sick pay.

Project length: April 2020 – February 2021

Funder: Trade Union Congress (£19,603.41)

Recent publications

Moore, S., Cai, M., Ball, C., & Flynn, M. (2023). 'Health and Safety Reps in COVID-19—Representation Unleashed?', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(8), 5551.

Cai, M. (2023). 'Extreme work', Encyclopedia of Human Resource Management (pp. 125–126), Edward Elgar Publishing.

Cai, M. (2023). 'Occupational health and safety', Encyclopedia of Human Resource Management (pp. 279–280), Edward Elgar Publishing.

Jameson, J., Rumyantseva, N., Cai, M., Markowski, M., Essex, R., & McNay, I. (2022). 'A systematic review and framework for digital leadership research maturity in higher education', Computers and Education Open, 3, 100115.

Cai, M., Moore, S., Ball, C., Flynn, M., & Mulkearn, K. (2022). 'The role of union health and safety representatives during the COVID-19 pandemic: A case study of the UK food processing, distribution, and retail sectors', Industrial Relations Journal, 53(4), 390–407.

Cai, M, Velu, J., Tindal, S., Bennett, S. (2021) ‘It’s Like a War Zone’: Jay’s Liminal Experience of Normal and Extreme Work in a UK Supermarket during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Work, Employment and Society. 35(2), 386-395.


Cai, M., Bennett, S., Stroleny, A., Tindal, S., (2022) Critical but replaceable? The tension between neo-normative discourse and lived experience of work and outside-in identity on the UK supermarket frontline in a time of crisis. 36th Annual Conference of the British Academy of Management, Manchester.

Bennett, S., Tindal, S., Stroleny, A., Cai, M., (2022) Is ‘extreme’ the new normal? The changing nature of supermarket work during COVID-19 pandemic. 40th International Labour Process Conference, Padua (Italy).

Cai, M., Bennett, S., Stroleny, A., Tindal, S., (2021) Liminality and organisational anomie: UK supermarket frontline work and employment relations during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 35th Annual Conference of the British Academy of Management (Online).

Bennett, S., Tindal, S., Cai, M., Stroleny, A. (2021) Between mundane and extreme: supermarket frontline employees’ experiences of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Labour Process Conference, London (Online).