2nd December 2014
Employment Rights – How is UK employment law affected by the Human Rights Act and the European Union?
There has been much fuss in the media recently about what a scandalous outrage the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998 have been for Britain. Much of this debate has been generated by tabloid newspapers with a specific political agenda at heart.
The question that I would like to briefly address here is whether the Act has had much of a direct impact on employment law in England. The Act provides for the implementation of several generalised rights in its Articles, such as the right to liberty/security, a fair trial, privacy, freedom of thought and religion, elimination of discrimination and forced labour.
Although there have been certain cases involving employment disputes which have gone as far as the European Court, the basic relevant rights under the Human Rights Act do not actually extend very much further than the relevant UK legislation. For instance, we have had equality legislation in place outlawing discrimination within the Equality Act 2010. The first ever equality laws were passed by the British parliament in 1970, before we even entered the European Common Market.
Everyone has the right to privacy in an employment context under the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998 and other domestic legislation. Slavery was largely abolished in the nineteenth century. And employment tribunals have provided a means for a ‘fair trial’ of most employment disputes for forty years, and employers must already use grievance procedures to avoid costly employment claims.
So, in conclusion, I would say that the debate over the Human Rights Act 1998 is a distraction, and not of much significance to English employment law, which is already reasonably tightly regulated. Whether you are an employer or employee, you will probably only need to rely on English employment law to protect and enforce your rights.
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