UCL Faculty of Laws


Human Rights at Work (LAWS0124)

Human rights have taken on a central role in labour law debates in the context of economic globalisation and the decline of union power

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This module investigates the implications and the potential of the trend to frame the issues arising between employers and workers in terms of human rights. The rights concerned might be constitutional rights or rights found in regional or international declarations of human rights.

The module is therefore not limited to a particular jurisdiction, but views the trend from a theoretical, comparative and international perspective. The module examines this approach in relation to some illustrative rights e.g. trade union rights, the right to work, the prohibition of slavery and servitude, the right to privacy, freedom of religion.

The cases have been selected as illustrations of issues that arise at work and how attempts to analyse them in terms of rights have been resolved (including, commonly, the rejection or suppression of a rights discourse). The module concludes with readings that critically examine the human rights approach to labour law from policy and philosophical perspectives.

Module syllabus

This module is subject to change.

  1. Introduction: Solidarity v Human Rights
  2. Rights to Associate, to Organise, to Bargain and to Strike
  3. The Right to Work and Social Rights
  4. The Right to Privacy in the Workplace
  5. The Right to Private Life Outside the Workplace
  6. The Right to Freedom of Speech or Expression and Whistleblowing
  7. The Right to Practice a Religion and Dress Codes
  8. Modern Slavery
  9. Business and Human Rights
  10. Theories of Rights in the Workplace

Recommended materials

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, available at the beginning of term once students have enrolled.

Preliminary reading

Students who have not previously studied public international law, or who wish to refresh their memories on the subject, may wish to read:

  • Jay Youngdahl, ‘Solidarity First: Labor Rights are Not the Same as Human Rights’, New Labor Forum (18(1) 31-37 (Winter 2009)
  • Lance Compa, ‘Solidarity And Human Rights: A Response to Youngdahl’, New Labor Forum (18(1) 38-45 (Winter 2009)

Both of the above articles are available at: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1242&context=articles

  • V Mantouvalou (ed), The Right to Work – Legal and Philosophical Perspectives, (Hart Publishing, 2014)
  • CC Gearty, V Mantouvalou, Debating Social Rights, (Hart Publishing, 2011)

Key information

Module details
Credit value:15 credits (7.5 ECTS, 150 learning hours)
Convenor:Virginia Mantouvalou
Other Teachers:John Hendy QC
Teaching Delivery:10 x 2-hour weekly seminars, Term Two
Who may enrol:Any UCL Master’s student
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Human Rights Law;
LLM in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory;
LLM in Public Law
Practice Assessment:Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay
Final Assessment:Essay (100%)