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The relevance of human rights to employers and their workforce

In recent weeks, it has been confirmed that the government shall not be proceeding with the Bill of Rights (‘the Bill’) which was introduced to parliament in June 2022. If the Bill had proceeded in parliament, it would have repealed and replaced the Human Rights Act 1998 (‘HRA’). Now that it appears that the HRA is here to stay, we wanted to highlight the relevance of the HRA to employers and their workforce.

The HRA protects workers who are employed in the public sector or those who perform public functions. It is not directly applicable to private sector employees but employment tribunals do take HRA issues into account when deciding disputes in the employment tribunal which arise out of the employment relationship or its termination. Therefore, it is important that all employers are mindful of the rights and freedoms under the HRA and we consider it best practice for employers to comply with the HRA.

Below, we have considered the relevant human rights and freedoms.

Article 6 – Right to a fair trial

All hearings should take place within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial judge. This can be applicable to both external hearings and internal hearings such as hearings held by employers under the disciplinary or grievance procedures.

This right is also provided to employees within employment law legislation (the Employment Rights Act 1996).

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence

All individuals have a right to respect for their private and family life, their home and their correspondence. As an individual’s ‘home’ and work lives are becoming increasingly similar, Article 8 is an important consideration for employers when monitoring employees through surveillance or monitoring systems. Employers do not have an unfettered right to monitor employees in the workplace or whilst they are working at home.

Employers should ensure they have a legitimate reason for monitoring employees and that they are doing so proportionately, meaning that an employer should always consider whether the use of less evasive means could assist them in achieving their aim.

Employers should also be mindful of the Data Protection Act 2018 when considering employee monitoring.

Article 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Employees have the right to manifest their religion or beliefs in worship, teaching, practice and observance. This may be particularly relevant, for example, when an employee wishes to dress in a certain way in the workplace due to their religious beliefs. Such religious observation should be accommodated unless the employer has justifiable reasons why it cannot accommodate the request.

This right is provided to employees within employment law legislation (the Equality Act 2010).

Article 10 – Freedom of expression

Employees should be free to hold individual opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas.

Article 11 – Freedom of assembly and association

Employees have the right to join a trade union for the protection of their interests.

This right is provided to employees within employment legislation (the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992).

Article 14 – Prohibition of discrimination

The enjoyment of human rights and freedoms are to be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

This right is provided to employees within employment legislation (the Equality Act 2010).

A situation may arise where one or more rights and freedoms are in conflict and the employer will need to assess which is to take precedent.

For further information on how the HRA is applicable to your workforce or for help in assessing which rights or freedoms take precedent, please contact a member of the AfterAthena team.