Identifying Rights in Our Everyday Work
Legal rights in social enterprise module
Identifying Rights in our Everyday Work
Checking whether we are working directly or indirectly on rights can be challenging. There are lots of rights contained in international and national laws. The legal rights can often seem quite distant from our everyday work providing services, owning community assets or selling goods in our communities. There is also a difference between rights required by the law in your context (these are legally enforceable by a court and regulator) and rights that are welcomed by countries but not legally enforceable (if they have signed up to an international convention but not yet written it into national law).
This section presents you with questions to help you think about whether you are working directly or indirectly with legal rights. You might like to look over these questions individually or discuss them with your social enterprise team and clients/ customers.
Are we working directly with a legal right?
Check over the list of rights in your most relevant national legal source. Below we have used the UK Human Rights Act 1998 as an example. You could also start with the International Bill of Human Rights. The types of work are only to illustrate what the right might look like in practice, they are not comprehensive or exhaustive examples.
Question 1: What type of work do we do and why? Do we work directly to campaign for, protect, or improve these rights? How does our work relate to the right?
- Right to life (this might include NHS advocates who help people navigate their treatment plans or lawyers who work to free people who are restrained against their will)
- Right to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (this might include people who support and advocate during the court process for survivors of gender-based violence)
- Right to be free from slavery and forced labour (this includes organisations who identify, refer and support people who have experienced exploitation or human trafficking in areas like forced agricultural labour, seafaring, criminal or sexual exploitation, and domestic servitude)
- Right to liberty and security (for example translators who interpret discussions during arrest and the court proceedings, legal observers at protests, organisations who support families affected by prison and seek compensation for wrongful convictions or arrests)
- Right to no punishment without the law (people volunteering with the children’s hearing system and volunteer magistrates as well as juries)
- Right to respect for private and family life (people hosting Ukrainian families, people who work with and look after accommodated children and young people)
7. Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (faith-based community groups and places of worship)
8. Right to freedom of expression (this might include citizen journalism, research organisations, broadcasting channels and community radio)
9. Right to freedom of assembly and association (trade unions, community assemblies and parliaments, strikes and protests like the Fridays for Futures movement)
10. Right to marry and found a family (places of celebration, celebrants and registry offices)
11. Right to be treated fairly without discrimination (organisations who work to reduce inequalities, reporters of hate crimes, advice organisations like Citizens Advice Bureaux and legal advice centres)
12. Right to education (organisations providing community and adult learning, volunteers on school boards, parent teacher associations, volunteer invigilators, and school bus drivers)
13. Right to free elections (counters, observers, campaigners, and reporters, including people raising awareness of refugees right to vote in local elections)
Is the right you work on more specific? For example, children’s rights, the right to a healthy environment, the right to access health care, the right to social security or the community right to buy land?
Question 2: How do we work to campaign for, protect or improve these rights?
- Working directly to improve rights with communities and individuals
- Raising awareness of peoples’ rights through information or training
- Sharing learning and examples and being a rights champion
- Working with someone to ensure their rights are protected in a process (advocating)
- Volunteering as part of a public services
- Providing public services
- Evaluating public services
- Reporting to the United Nations on progress meeting rights
- Reporting to the national human rights regulator
- Monitoring situations where rights are not working with research or observation
- Campaigning on specific rights to improve progress
- Working with people to seek compensation, apologies or changes for people who have been badly treated
- Something we haven’t mentioned
If you combine your answers from question 1 and 2, you should be able to write up a short paragraph describing your work on rights. Fill in the blanks to create your change statement:
Our social enterprise (your name) works (directly or indirectly) on the legal right to (the right (s) you work on identified in 1-13 above and the specific legal source used), We work to (campaign, protect, improve or another verb that describes what you do) by delivering (the activity chosen in A-M above) in our (local community or delivery area). Our aim is to (your social mission or charitable objective). An example of our work to (campaign, protect, improve or another verb that describes what you do) is (project example).
An example of a change statement for JRS Knowhow’s work:
Our social enterprise JRS Knowhow works indirectly on all of the legal rights contained in Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010 and the UN International Bill of Rights. We work to raise awareness of rights and deliver educational activities across Scotland. Our aim is to realise a Scotland where people understand their rights and how to protect them and where organisations understand their legal duties to promote equality and rights. An example of our work to raise awareness of rights is our latest guide about the right to protest produced with Amnesty Scotland.
Scottish Rural Action - Right to Freedom of Assembly
Scottish Rural Action is helping to strengthen a ‘rural movement’ in Scotland which amplifies the voices of rural and island people and ensures their expertise is visible, valued and resourced within local and national policy.
Impact Hub Inverness - Right to a Safe and Healthy Work Environment
To ensure the right to a safe and healthy work environment, the Hub offers people in Scotland a co-working space for entrepreneurs, businesses and organisations to network, collaborate and innovate.
Embedding and Evaluating a Rights-based Approach
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ask you as a social enterprise to take a number of steps. For example:
- (15) Create and have policies and processes to meet human rights responsibilities, such as conducting due diligence to pre-empt, identify and mitigate any impacts, and provide remedies if harms are caused
- (16) Have a high level policy commitment that is embedded and publicly available to everyone including colleagues and customers
- (17) carry out due diligence to identify rights risks and act upon the findings
- (18) identify and assess rights impacts with internal and external expertise, as well as ensuring meaningful consultation with the people impacted
- (19) take action from the impact assessments, (20) track effectiveness of responses, (21) report on impacts, (22) have remedies for any impacts caused
- (23) comply with all applicable laws
- (24) where needing to prioritise actions, always looking at the most severe impacts
One way to make sure the UN principles are embedded in your social enterprise is to use a rights-based approach.
The following prompt questions will help you figure out where you are on your journey to using a rights-based approach and understanding if your approach is effective.
Question 3: Are we working with an approach that is guided by a rights-based approach?
A. Are our organisational strategies and service provisions working in a rights-based way by…
- focusing on the most marginalised people and groups
- looking at the obstacles and barriers groups encounter
- looking at the relationship between the people who are responsible for the rights and the people who are owed the rights
- working in partnership with people to know more about their rights and how to use them
- Doing something similar we haven’t mentioned?
If not, how could we improve our approach?
B. Are we working to implement any rights-based principles and standards in our organisation?
- UN Global Compact Signatory
- Global Reporting Instrument
- UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
- Scottish Business Pledge signatory or national equivalent
- Scottish Fair Work Framework or national equivalent
- Living Wage Accreditation or national equivalent
- Bcorp accreditation
- Good Governance Codes for social enterprises
- Doing something similar we haven’t mentioned?
If not, which principles and standards are relevant to our work?
C. Are we using any specific human rights tools or practices in your work?
- Due diligence processes to check for rights abuses with service providers, supply chains and partners – for example human trafficking and modern slavery
- Rights gap analyses
- Human rights and equalities impact assessments
- Rights based budgeting
- Human rights policy
- Evaluation using the PANEL principles (participation, accountability, non-discrimination and equality, empowerment and legality)
- Co-production processes and community engagement
- Complaints processes for upholding rights and whistleblowing procedures
- Dignity at work policies
- Equality and equal opportunities policy
- Modern slavery statements
- Observing Human Rights Day on the 10th of December
- Training about rights for colleagues
- Resources about making reasonable adjustments for colleagues
- Recognising unions
- Doing something similar we haven’t mentioned?
If not, which of the tools, policies and practices will help us embed the UN Principles on Business and Human Rights?
Reflection Questions and Further Learning
- Where are we on our journey identifying rights in our work and using a rights-based approach? Our knowledge and practice around rights is:
- What are the barriers to realising rights in our work and approach?
- How can you progress to the next level of knowledge and practice? How can we address these barriers?
- Are there any similar rural social enterprises who you would like to learn more from?
Rights-based approach and tools
If you are new to identifying rights in your work and a right based approach you can explore these resources:
- The SHRC have further Scottish case studies highlighting rights in action in organisations, covering advocacy, housing, poverty and health
- The EU agency for fundamental rights have a webpage about businesses and human rights which includes news, updates and specific reports on topics like protecting migrant workers from exploitation.
Hopeman Community Bus: Rural Inequalities and Rights
Hopeman Community Bus is a connection for the rural community and provides support for people in need of support due to disability, ill-health, financial difficulties and serves as an asset to support wellbeing and maintain independence.
If you would like to learn more detail about businesses, human rights, tools and processes these resources will deepen your knowledge:
- UN Global Compact’s resources on antidiscrimination and due diligence expectations of businesses
- The Helpdesk on Business and Human Rights website run by the Agency for Business & Economic Development in Germany has a free advisory service and a toolbox including a risk checking tool and a due diligence frequently asked questions section