THE UK PARLIAMENT Joint Committee on Human Rights has launched a new inquiry to examine how human rights are protected at work across the UK.

The Committee says: “Work is a central aspect of people’s live as it often provides their principal source of income and can provide a sense of purpose. Employment can also contribute to an individual’s feelings of self-respect and dignity. However, the world of work has also been recognised as involving an imbalance of power between employer and workers This imbalance can lead to exploitation, discrimination and other harmful practices.

“States have an obligation to protect workers from breaches of their human rights. This can include ensuring employers don’t interfere with their worker’s freedom of association, for example by preventing them from joining a trade union. States also have an obligation to ensure workers aren’t subject to surveillance and workplace monitoring that amounts to a breach of their right to private and family life.

“There are a large number of laws and regulations that protect rights at work. This inquiry will specifically look at how the universal protections guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights apply to the world of work and the rights of workers.”

The Committee is undertaking a separate piece of work providing legislative scrutiny of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill.

Scottish MP Joanna Cherry KC said: “Employment often has an inherent power imbalance that can leave workers vulnerable to exploitation or discrimination. There is an obligation on the Government to ensure that there is a comprehensive framework in place that ensure the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights are protected at work. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has launched this inquiry to understand how rights are currently protected at work and pinpoint where greater safeguards may be needed.”

The Committee invites written evidence on the following questions:

Freedom of association and the right to strike

Does the current law effectively protect the rights of trade unions and workers to take industrial action under Article 11 ECHR? Does the law effectively protect the right to strike for the purposes of other international human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Labour Organisation Conventions?

The right to privacy, and surveillance at work

  • What forms of surveillance, if any, that are used to monitor workers raise concerns under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to private and family life)? Are there any associated concerns under Article 14 (freedom from discrimination)?
  • What is the legal framework in the UK that governs surveillance in the workplace?
  • Where surveillance is used to monitor workers, does the current legal framework adequately protect their Article 8 right to private and family life? If not, what changes need to be made to ensure it does?

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom of expression in the workplace

  • Does domestic law strike the right balance between workers’ Article 9 right to freedom of religion or belief and the rights of employers? If not, what changes are needed?
  • Does domestic law strike the right balance between workers’ Article 10 right to freedom of expression and the rights of employers? If not, what changes are needed?
  • Does domestic law provide adequate protection for the rights of workers to be free from harassment at work by third parties on account of their religion or beliefs?

Labour market exploitation

  • What is the current legal and policy framework for tackling labour exploitation in the UK? Is that framework effective to protect workers’ rights under Article 4 ECHR, which prohibits slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour?
  • Are there any improvements that could be made to better tackle exploitative labour practices which are contrary to Article 4 in the UK?
  • Do workers from particular groups or in precarious employment disproportionately experience labour market exploitation? Does this raise concerns under Article 14 ECHR (freedom from discrimination)?

Retained EU Law and workers’ rights

  • To what extent is the UK’s compliance with its human rights obligations, in relation to the protection of workers, currently dependent on retained EU law?

International human rights treaties

  • Does the UK effectively comply with its international obligations to protect workers’ rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, and International Labour Organisation Conventions? If not, what improvements should be made?

The deadline for submitting written evidence is 24 March 2023.  A submission does not need to address every question.

The Committee consists of twelve members, appointed from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, to examine matters relating to human rights within the United Kingdom, as well as scrutinising every Government Bill for its compatibility with human rights.

* Read the Committee’s Call for Evidence here.

* Information on how to submit evidence to the inquiry here.

* Source: Joint Committee on Human Rights