Why We Need to Keep the Human Rights Act – Defending Employment Rights


If the current Government's plans come to fruition, our Human Rights Act will be scrapped. Many mistakenly believe that removing the Act will take protection away from criminals in the UK. The reality is that it will affect you, your family, and your everyday life.

Acto for the Act

This why it is so important for you to take a moment find out about what the Human Rights Act really does to protect us, and why our solicitors at Simpson Millar are supporting the #ActfortheAct campaign.

The #ActfortheAct poster campaign is inspired by the ground-breaking #IAmAnImmigrant "crowdfunder.co.uk" project, and will spread striking images and experiences of real people who have been protected by the Human Rights Act.

You're going to see #ActfortheAct posters on Tube and National Rail networks. Take a second to look at them on your way to work and you'll learn about how the Human Rights Act has helped people like you RIGHT a serious WRONG in their lives.

Why We Need to #ActfortheAct

The Human Rights Act embodies the basic rights and freedoms available to everyone in the UK. These rights and freedoms are currently guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention rights).

Among the Convention rights which are set out in the Human Rights Act are; the right not to be treated as a slave or made to perform forced or compulsory labour; the right not to suffer discrimination; the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to freedom of expression and to freedom of assembly and association.

Joy Drummond (Partner and Solicitor, Employment Law)

The Human Rights Act plays a central role in protecting our basic rights and liberties. You may not realise that we can thank the Human Rights Act (HRA) for many of the basic rights that protect us from abuses of power in employment.

Convention rights have led to decisions affecting the employment relationship, including:
  • Restricting an employer's ability to monitor an employee's private communications, such as private emails and video footage
  • Removing the 2 years' continuous service requirement in UK law so that employees may bring an unfair dismissal claim from the first day of employment where the reason for dismissal relates to 'political opinion'
  • Upholding an employee's right to wear visible religious symbols, such as a Christian cross, in the workplace
  • Testing whether a tactic used by employers to block an application for workplace recognition from a union which the employer did not like, by recognising a more pliable "sweetheart" union instead, was lawful

Protecting the Principle of Fairness

The HRA gives greater effect to Convention rights and the core principles upon which the HRA is based, i.e. dignity, fairness, equality, respect and autonomy help make up the laws that protect us in the workplace.

The principle of fairness, for example, underpins UK dismissal law. Employers are not free to dismiss employees (with 2 years' continuous service) for whatever reason they choose. The law prescribes the potentially fair reasons for dismissal and unless an employer's reason is a 'potentially fair reason' the dismissal will be unfair. Even when dismissing for a potentially fair reason an employer must also act reasonably in all of the circumstances otherwise the dismissal will be unfair. A violation of human rights can be relevant in deciding whether an employer's behaviour is reasonable.

UK laws which have been implemented to give effect to HRA also help to protect an employee's dignity at work by making it unlawful for employers and co-workers to turn the workplace into a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, race religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

Government Diluting Human Rights in the UK

The Government's purpose in proposing to repeal the HRA is to weaken the link between human rights conferred under the Convention and UK law; replacing the HRA with a significantly diluted UK Bill of Rights.

Repealing the HRA is unlikely to achieve the Government's objective of less scrutiny and restriction of UK law by an outside objective body given the UK's obligations as a member of the EU under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which closely follows Convention rights. However, as is recognised by the Foreign Office, repealing the HRA would seriously undermine the UK's international reputation and credibility in seeking to take other states to task on human rights issues including the rights of employees, whether forced labour or otherwise and the rights of trade unionist not to be persecuted.

It's for these reasons that we're stepping up to #ActfortheAct, and that you should too. Support the campaign by taking a second to look at the posters on public transport, by following @Actfortheact and visiting their crowdfunding page at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/actfortheact.

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