Where Do Rights Come From & How Can You Find Out About The Law?


Where Do rights Come From & How Can I Find Out More About The Law?

Legal rights in social enterprise module

Where Rights Come From

Rights are owed to us simply because we are human. They are written down in international and national legal documents, like United Nations treaties and Acts of parliament.

What does this mean for social enterprises? Leaders often need to check for legal updates to areas like national employment, public health, privacy and tax law. Then these legal rights are often written down in organisational contracts, terms of service and organisational policies. For example, dignity at work, equal opportunities, modern slavery statements and complaints or whistleblowing policies.

Rights are checked, analysed and organisations are sometimes reminded of them by national human rights institutions. These institutions act as regulators, to check that the law is working and being correctly understood in practice. Regulators often have powers to take action to tell an organisation (including small businesses and social enterprises) to improve their practice and policies. Some regulators have funds for strategic legal action about discrimination and places where you can report discriminatory job adverts.

Jigsaw - “A jigsaw puzzle with pieces reading ‘transparency’, ‘rules’, ‘policies’, ‘legal’, ‘requirements’, ‘law’, ‘standards’. The middle section is empty, the text ‘compliance’ can be seen. Next to it a separate piece reading ‘regulations’.”



National law- for example UK law

  • An example of a national law containing rights is the Human Rights Act 1998 in the UK, which makes the European Convention on Human Rights a legal requirement for public authorities and organisations providing public services.

Regulators – for example UK national human rights institutions


How to Find Out About the Law

International law

Regional law- for example European law



Reflection Questions and Further Learning

Reflection questions

  • Where are the relevant sources of international, regional and national laws that write down legal rights in your social enterprise context?
  • Who is responsible for making sure that the law is understood and working in reality in your context?
  • How will you stay up to date with changes in the law in future?

If you are new to rights and business, you might like to explore:

  • Shift’s webpage giving an introduction to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which includes a brief history, videos explaining the principles and a frequently asked question section.
  • This seven-minute introductory video on Youtube explains the importance of human rights to businesses, to ensure that rights risks don’t turn into business risks. It explains the UN principles and how to go about the due diligence requirements which are ongoing and not one off.

If you would like to learn more detail about rights and businesses these resources will deepen your knowledge:

JRSKnowhow logo - 'JRSKnowhow logo"

InspirAlba logo - “InspirAlba logo”