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Human Rights at Work (LAWS70391)

Graduate coursework level 7Points: 12.5Not available in 2019

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Year of offerNot available in 2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 7
Subject codeLAWS70391
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Human rights law is a subject of growing importance with wide implications, for governments and business. This subject considers how human rights law can be used to regulate private power (the power of the employer) and a private law relationship (the contract of employment) in an era of globalisation and transnational corporations. It examines, in particular, the question whether labour rights can be regarded as human rights, and considers the main international instruments designed to regulate the workplace.

The main focus will be the four core principles of the International Labour Organisation, concerned with the right to freedom of association, protection from discrimination, the elimination of forced labour, and combating child labour. Consideration will be given to how these and related obligations can be enforced against governments, but also against corporations. Different instruments of corporate accountability are fully explored, and attention is paid to how business can keep on the right side of human rights standards, and the risks of failing to do so, with reference to the law and practice of Australia and other common law jurisdictions.

What is the relevance of human rights at work for governments and corporations in Australia, whether doing business here or overseas? What are the ‘risks’ of human rights at work, legal or otherwise? Conversely, how can trade unions mobilise around human rights at work to advance the interests of their members?

Principal topics include:

  • The nature of protection of labour rights in international and domestic law
  • The scope and relevance of international labour standards for domestic law
  • The role of hard and soft law mechanisms and the collapse of the hard/soft law distinction
  • The application of human rights principles to private law relationships in selected areas.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated understanding of human rights within the context of work, including recent developments in this field of law and practice
  • Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the effectiveness of human rights law in a work context
  • Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as freedom of association, as well as child labour, forced labour, and discrimination
  • Have a sophisticated appreciation of the factors and processes driving revision of the human rights framework
  • Have an advanced understanding of situations in which issues of human rights may arise in work relationships and management practices
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to human rights in the workplace, and to critically evaluate existing legal theories, principles and concepts with creativity and autonomy
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to human rights in the workplace
  • Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding human rights in the workplace to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of human rights law.

Eligibility and requirements


Melbourne Law Masters Students: None

JD Students: None



Non-allowed subjects


Recommended background knowledge

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • Take-home examination (5,000 - 6,000 words) (100%) (25 - 28 May)
  • Research paper (8,000 - 10,000 words) (100%) (9 July) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Quotas apply to this subject

Dates & times

Not available in 2019

Additional delivery details

This subject has a quota of 30 students.

Enrolment is on a first come, first served basis. Waitlists are maintained for subjects that are fully subscribed.

Students should note priority of places in subjects will be given as follows:

  • To currently enrolled Graduate Diploma and Masters students with a satisfactory record in their degree
  • To other students enrolling on a single subject basis, eg Community Access Program (CAP) students, cross-institutional study and cross-faculty study.

Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Further information

Last updated: 22 August 2019