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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.
Last updated: 10 November 2023