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Human rights

Updating author: Tina McKevitt


  • The Human Rights Act 1998, which came into force in the UK on 2 October 2000, gives "further effect" to the rights and freedoms guaranteed to everyone under the European Convention on Human Rights made at Rome on 4 November 1950. (See Human Rights Act 1998 overview)
  • The Convention rights are to be found in sch.1 to the Human Rights Act 1998. (See The Convention rights)
  • The Human Rights Act 1998 does not create any new statutory or common law rights for individuals: it imposes a duty on UK tribunals and courts, when determining a question that has arisen in connection with a Convention right, to take account of any judgment, decision, declaration or opinion of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights (and related Strasbourg-based institutions) that may be relevant to the proceedings in which that question has arisen. (See Enforcing Convention rights)
  • When reading and giving effect to UK primary and subordinate legislation, the courts and tribunals must, as far as possible, do so in a way that is compatible with the Convention rights. (See Enforcing Convention rights)
  • The Human Rights Act 1998 points out that it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with a Convention right - the term "public authority" includes the courts and tribunals, as well as government departments, local authorities, health trusts, the police and other bodies exercising public functions. (See Human Rights Act 1998 overview and Enforcing Convention rights)
  • It follows that, while public sector employees may sue their employer for breach of a Convention right, workers in the private sector may not, although they may rely on (or pray in aid) a particular Convention right when pursuing a complaint, reference or claim before an employment tribunal or court. (See Enforcing Convention rights)
  • In the employment field, the Convention rights listed in part I of sch.1 to the Human Rights Act 1998 have implications in relation to the interception and recording of private telephone calls, emails, etc. (See Right to a fair and public hearing; Right to respect for private and family life; Freedom of thought, conscience and religion; Freedom of expression; and Freedom of assembly and association)

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