Photograph: Roger Blackwell

How would the abolition of the Human Rights Act affect employees?

WORKPLACE RIGHTS: The government's proposal to abolish the Human Rights Act could have implications for employment law.

by Michael Burd and James Davies
Last Updated: 19 Jun 2016

After his election victory, David Cameron announced that abolition of the Human Rights Act would be a priority. So what implications would this have for employment law?

The Human Rights Act incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law. In essence, the government plans to replace this with a 'British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities'. They also want judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to be merely 'advisory' and not binding.

The ECHR has had a significant impact in the workplace in areas such as employee rights to privacy, the right to manifest religious beliefs and freedom of association for trade unions. The new regime would inevitably reduce the requirement for UK legislation to be interpreted in line with such rights. Nonetheless, the British courts' long tradition of upholding fundamental values would mean the ECHR would continue to exert a strong influence.

Conduct by employers that disrespects human rights will not become acceptable just because the mechanism for enforcing them has changed.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors, email:

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