The overall complexity of employment relations today raises new challenges for scholars to extend their work across the boundaries of particular geographies, organizations, theoretical perspectives and disciplines. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the British Journal of Industrial Relations, this article introduces key aspects of global challenges facing employees and research on employment relations. Drawing on the articles of this anniversary issue, we identify several theoretical concepts drawn from the wider social sciences that have proven useful in understanding global challenges around global value chains, transnational and multi-level institutional frameworks, and the role of global finance. We also identify and discuss the emergence of new actors that have a growing salience for global employment research and the establishment of more global forms of worker representation. By further developing theoretical concepts around these global challenges, we argue that employment relations research will increase its dialogue with and distinctive contribution to wider debates in the social sciences.