Human rights in the workplace

Human rights in the workplace

Today is Blog Action Day 2013 and the theme for this year is Human Rights. We’ve decided to look at human rights legislation in the workplace.

Human rights are protected by the law and this also applies to the workplace too. In the UK your work-related human rights and freedoms are protected by provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, which is based on the European Convention on Human Rights. If you are employed in the public sector, it would be against the law for your employer to violate any of these rights (unless they are forced to by an Act of Parliament).

If you work in the private sector things are slightly more complicated. You are unable to make a claim against your employer for breaching your human rights but to compensate for this, general workplace law incorporates tenets of human rights law that make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against employees.

One of your human rights is the right to a private and family life, so for example if your employer is discriminating against you on the basis of your sexuality it might mean that they are violating your human right to a private life.

Something that is not a violation of your human rights is if your employer wanted to monitor things like your email or internet usage. As long as they informed you first, they would be doing nothing wrong by doing this. However, if they were to monitor you absolutely everywhere within the workplace, this would be a violation of your right to a private life and they would be breaking the law.

So, if you feel that your human rights have been breached at work, what should you do about it?

The first step should be to speak to your employer about it informally. If you still feel that nothing has changed, follow the internal grievance procedure stated in your contract. Your final available option is legal action.

Because human rights issues are often very complex, you should almost certainly take legal advice before proceeding. There is free and impartial advice available at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or your trade union (if you have one) might be able to help.

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