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Worker’s basic human rights are being violated across the United Kingdom, and with more threats on the way. We’re raising the issue with the UK Parliament to let them know what is going on, and how it can be fixed.

In our recent submission to the Human Rights (Joint Committee) during their call for evidence on Human Rights at Work we stated that the human rights of workers are being violated in terms of access to work, just and favourable conditions, pay, discrimination, and trade union rights. We also emphasised that decisions made by the UK Government about our post-Brexit trajectory (including in relation to the current Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform Bill) further threaten these rights. 

We called on the UK Government to shore up current human rights protections in the workplace by ensuring that decisions made post-Brexit do not undermine the rights and equalities protections people currently enjoy.  We also urged the UK Government to take further steps and bring international human rights protections, including those within the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), into domestic law in the UK.

Evidence of rights violations

Human rights at work are protected in international law by ICESCR which the UK ratified and so agreed to be legally bound by in 1976. 

In our submission to the Human Rights (Joint Committee) inquiry, we drew on multiple sources of evidence that were submitted as part of our independent civil society report for the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).  We highlighted that these rights are being violated in relation to work across the UK.  We included the following evidence:

  • Unemployment continues to disproportionately affect disadvantaged and marginalised groups because of both UK Government policy and inaction.
  • Insufficient progress has been made in taking all appropriate measures to fully guarantee just and favourable conditions of work.
  • Low wages are prevalent and do not ensure a decent standard of living leading to in-work poverty.
  • Discrimination at work and the vulnerability of some workers to rights violations persists.
  • There is no legal right to be represented by a trade union in collective bargaining except by way of a flawed statutory recognition procedure.

Our post-Brexit trajectory 

In our submission we noted that political decisions made by the UK Government in terms of the way the UK exited the EU is already having an impact on the rights and equalities standards that workers in the UK enjoy.  For example, the protection of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which reflects the indivisibility of civil, political, economic and social rights, has already been lost and the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, currently making its ways through the UK Parliament, could expire retained EU law which protects important human rights for workers. 

We also added that the UK is now falling behind the EU in terms of protection for workers’ human rights. An example of this is the Work-life Balance Directive, which will not be implemented in the UK.


In our submission, we argued that the rights within ICESCR need to be brought into domestic law in the UK. While they aren’t, there are multiple issues with their realisation including:

  • Laws that do exist are not being properly applied.
  • Laws that do exist are under threat.
  • Enforcement and oversight bodies are unable to effectively carry out their functions.
  • Large gaps in protections mean that rights are being experienced in an unequal way, particularly for those with protected characteristics, and even more so for those with intersecting protected characteristics.

Read our submission

Read our independent report to CESCR

Read more on the REUL (R&R) Bill 

Background image by Kayan Cheung-Miaw