Most of the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 have significant implications for employers. Although the Act only enables individuals to take action against public authorities, private sector employers may become caught by its provisions in a tribunal situation. This is because Employment Tribunals themselves are public authorities and as a result are required to consider The Human Rights Act when judging employment disputes. However, employees within the private sector may not bring a claim against their employer purely on the basis of an infringement of his or her human rights. The individual would need to be able to claim that some other right, such as their right not to be discriminated against, had been breached. The key considerations for employers in relation to the Human Rights Act are:

  • Under Article 8, everybody has the right to respect for their private and family life, their home and their correspondence. This has implications for such activities as covert monitoring of email correspondence, monitoring an employee's social media activity, providing medical information about themselves (and such activities as testing for drugs and alcohol), providing employers with information about their private life and employers who have policies that prohibit relationships at work;
  • Under Article 9, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This potentially had implications for employers seeking to restrict employees of particular faiths from taking time off to observe religious festivals;
  • Article 10 enshrines an individual's right to freedom of expression. This is concerned with the right to hold opinions and receive and disseminate opinions. However, it has been argued that it could be more broadly interpreted to include manner of dress, which would have implications for organisations with dress codes;
  • Article 4 states that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude and that no one shall be made to undertake forced or compulsory labour. This has potential implications where an employer wishes an employee to work out his or her notice where the individual does not wish to do so.