Human Rights at Work

This course examines how the idea of human rights guides, constitutes, and regulates the legal rules and standards governing employment and work.  This examination of the foundation of labour law in human rights is intended to consider the need to guarantee basic protections for workers against the pressures arising from various aspects of globalisation. 

The human rights to be considered are found in (a) international law such as the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO’s Declaration of the Fundamental Rights of Workers; (b) the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and other measures of EU law;  (c) the treaties of the Council of Europe including the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Social Charter; (d) the Human Rights Act 1998 in the United Kingdom; and (e) occasional comparisons with the judicial interpretation of the fundamental rights protected in the constitutions of nation states.  

The course also critically examines the various mechanisms for protecting these rights, which range from judicial enforcement of directly enforceable rights, through international conventions, to self-regulation through corporate codes of conduct.    

The human rights to be considered during the course will include: freedom of association, the right to strike, the right to privacy, freedom of religion, freedom from slavery, forced labour and trafficking, the right to work, job security and property rights in jobs, and equality rights across various grounds including sex, race, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion.  These rights will be studied in depth to illustrate the complex interplay between international, European, and national norms, and between various forms and sources of protection.

Learning outcomes: students will acquire a knowledge of the human rights found in international and transnational laws and standards that are applicable to employment and the workplace, and the institutions and enforcement mechanisms that protect those labour rights; students will learn about the strengths and weakness of reliance on human rights law for the protection of labour standards and workers’ interests. 

The course does not presuppose that students should have taken an undergraduate labour law or employment law course. Nor does it presuppose that students should have studied human rights law, international law or EU law.  The course will be taught in a varied format, including seven seminars in Michaelmas Term and seven in Hilary Term. There will be tutorials to back up the seminars, each student receiving to up to four tutorials from a wide menu. These tutorials are offered throughout the academic year, in order to give practice in writing essays in this subject.

Any students who would like to discuss this course further are encouraged to contact one of the members of the teaching group.