At 30 years old Martha Spurrier has just started a tough new job, as Head of Liberty, a UK human rights group she’s stepped straight into the battle over the Human Rights Act being thrown away by the current government.
The Guardian reports:
The Human Rights Act, passed in 1998, allows individuals to defend their rights in UK courts while also ensuring that public organisations such as the police, and local and national government treat all citizens equally and respectfully. So it is no surprise that Spurrier is horrified by the prospect of its abolition – particularly as details of what might replace the act are so vague.
“We’ve got to a pretty bad place where a government is even considering repealing the Human Rights Act,” she explains. “I don’t think the government would put in its manifesto that it would repeal the Equality Act, and I can’t see the difference between that and the Human Rights Act.”
This wasn’t a case of sexism but a case of the police force discriminating against a mother of two who asked for flexible work hours so she could juggle a career and motherhood. She had been given a promotion in the police which was then taken away after she’d asked for the flexible hours.
The BBC reports how Hampshire Police have to pay just over £11,000 to Mrs Burden for her loss of earnings, pension and injury to her feelings. All employees with 26 weeks or more service will be allowed to request flexible working, which employers in turn must address in a ‘reasonable manner’. An employer can turn down your request if it affects how well you can do the job.
What is flexible working? It is a variation of your working pattern, such as working from home, part-time working, flexi-time, job sharing and shift working.
The Human Rights Act also provides protection for people’s family life with Article 8 stating:
Everyone has the right to respect for his of her private and family life, home and correspondence. This right is subject to proportionate and lawful restrictions.
Article 8 is a broad-ranging right that is often closely connected with other rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to respect for property. The government is forced under Article 8 to not interfere with the right itself and also to take some positive measures, for example, to criminalise extreme breaches of the right to a private life by private individuals.
Sure you’ll need to know about Human Rights within a Religious Studies context (think Sermon on the Mount, Love thy Neighbour, the Golden Rule, we are all equal as teeth of a comb) but you still need to know what Human Rights are and how we are protected.
In the UK we’ve signed up to the UDHR, which is the big one, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, since we’re also protected by the ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights) which Britain signed in the 1950s it also leads us to be protected by the Human Rights Act which Tony Blair’s government brought in in 1998 to make European human rights law get dealt with in Britain. Without the Human Rights Act if you felt someone was denying you your rights then you had to go to a European Court to get your case heard, and possibly won or lost. Yet with the Human Rights Act you can get things dealt with in UK courts. This is quicker and easier… but the current government aren’t keen. Find out why by reading this really simple article on The Independent‘s website.