JCHR Report – Human Rights and Business 2017: Promoting Responsibility and Ensuring Accountability

The Joint Committee for Human Rights (JCHR) released the report Human Rights and Business 2017: Promoting responsibility and ensuring accountability in April 2017. The Committee called for stronger legislation, stronger enforcement, and clearer routes to justice.

Stronger Legislation

  • The National Action Plan is the UK’s statement of intent on human rights – it must be more ambitious and set specific targets by which to measure progress;
  • The Government should introduce legislation to impose a duty on all companies to prevent human rights abuses, as well as a criminal offence of ‘failure to prevent human rights abuses’ similar to offences created for bribery in the Bribery Act 2010;
  • The Government should introduce legislation to enable prosecution of a parent company where human rights abuses are found further down the supply chain;
  • The Government’s proposed ‘Great Repeal Bill’ must replicate the human rights protections enshrined in EU law;
  • The Government should support the proposals contained within theModern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill (requiring commercial businesses and public bodies to include a statement on slavery and human trafficking in their annual report and accounts); and,
  • Human rights must be a key component of future trade deals.

Stronger Enforcement

  • The Government should extend protections provided by theGangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority to other industries, such as construction;
  • Government procurement must lead by example and exclude companies who do not undertake appropriate due diligence to ensure human rights standards are met; and,
  • The Government should give local authorities the powers to close down business premises found to exploit workers (e.g. where there has been found to be underpayment of wages, lack of employment contracts or where there is a significant disregard of health and safety regulations).

Clearer Routes to Justice

  • The UK National Contact Point (NCP) must be given the resources and government support to be an effective route to justice; and,
  • Tribunal fees must be reduced to remove the disincentive for individuals to bring legitimate claims for discrimination and other abuses.

Chair Harriet Harman MP said:

“Article 50 has been triggered. We are removing ourselves from the oversight of EU law and looking to develop new trading opportunities around the world. Human rights protections must not be lost in the rush.”

Access a summary, or download the full report.