UCL Faculty of Laws


Human Rights at Work (LAWS0314)

Human rights are taking an increasingly important role in labour law debates. This course investigates the trend. It looks at the implications and the potential of the analysis that frames the issues arising between employers and employees in terms of rights, as well as the challenges.

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The rights concerned might be constitutional rights or rights found in regional or international declarations of human rights.

The module is 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 also includes readings that critically examine the human rights approach to labour law from policy and philosophical perspectives.

Module syllabus

Seminar 1 - Introduction: Solidarity v Human Rights?

Seminar 2 - The Right to Work and Social Rights/The Duty to Work

Seminar 3 – The Prohibition of Slavery, Servitude, Forced and Compulsory Labour: Migrant Workers and Working Prisoners

Seminar 4 – The Right to Organise, Collective Bargaining and Strike

Seminar 5 – The Right to Private Life at Work

Seminar 6 - The Right to Private Life Outside the Workplace

Seminar 7 - The Right to Practice a Religion and Dress Codes

Seminar 8 – The Right to Freedom of Expression

Seminar 9 – The Right to Fair Wages and the Right to Social Security/The Right to Property

Seminar 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

  • 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)

  • V Mantouvalou (ed), The Right to Work – Legal and Philosophical Perspectives, (Hart Publishing, 2014)

  • V Mantouvalou, ‘Are Labour Rights Human Rights?’, (2012) 3 European Labour Law Journal, available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2007535

Key information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 credits (225 learning hours)
Convenor:Virginia Mantouvalou
Other Teachers:Lord Hendy QC
Teaching Delivery:

10 x 2-hour weekly seminars, term 2

Who may enrol:LLM Students Only


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:TBD
Final Assessment:3,000 Word Essay (100%)