Human rights guide for small & medium businesses

Equality and HE CommissionThe United Kingdom’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued an accessible guide to human rights aimed at small and medium sized businesses. It is a useful document that explains what human rights are, how they are relevant for businesses and how companies can ensure that their activities respect human rights. The Commission issued the guide in response to a demand from business.

It focuses primarily on conditions of employment and the treatment of employees, including avoiding forced and child labour. In that respect it adopts a somewhat inward looking approach for companies. That is obviously the most logical place to start for small to medium sized enterprises operating in the United Kingdom (or in Ireland for that matter), but it mentions only briefly human rights in the supply chain where most violations of this nature are likely to occur. It also mentions other rights that might be effected beyond the workplace.

This short guide could easily be applied by Irish companies, but would need to be backed and publicised by an organisation such as the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association. In making the case to business, the guide makes the point that respecting human rights can “add value” to your business. It also notes the potential harm in not doing so:

Failing to recognise and remedy human rights abuses may have serious consequences for a business and lead to negative media attention, loss of contracts, and most seriously, closure.

The guide relied on research carried out by my colleagues Nadia Bernaz (Middlesex) and Jeremie Gilbert (University of East London). A PDF of the guide is available here.

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