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Human Rights Act

Human Rights Act

The Human Rights Act (HRA) came into force on 2nd October 2000 and applies to public sector organisations such as Government departments, local authorities and NHS trusts, and those partly funded by public money and/or involved in public functions (termed "hybrid bodies"). Additionally, the Courts are generally following the provisions of the HRA in disputes involving private organisations.

Examples of the rights provided for by the HRA include:

  • the right to a fair trial
  • the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence
  • the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • the right to freedom of expression
  • the right not to be discriminated against on grounds such as sex, race, religion, and political opinion in relation to convention rights
  • the prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment (e.g. degrading racial abuse)

So the HRA widens the scope for preventing discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, sexual identity, religion, political orientation and also gives workers the right to privacy and respect for their private lives. One immediate implication for any practice which records telephone calls, is that the practice must ensure that their workers are able to make and receive personal calls that are not recorded (either by entering a bypass code to inhibit recording, or by the provision of a separate unrecorded line in an accessible location in the workplace). Practices should also make 'reasonable efforts' to inform patients that their calls are being/may be recorded. 'Reasonable efforts' may include information in practice leaflets and on waiting room notice boards, and/or announcements (automatic or verbal) when each patient call is answered.

Legal experts are advising employers to bear in mind employees' right to privacy when telephoning employees at home, and recommend that their conditions of employment should state that it may be necessary for the employer to telephone employees at home from time to time.

The use of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to monitor the workplace is being challenged as an infringement of the Human Rights Act (right to privacy). Practices which use CCTV in the workplace should ensure that workers are made fully aware. Practices which use CCTV to monitor patient waiting areas would be advised to display notices to this effect. Employers are advised to keep workers' rights to privacy in mind when telephoning them at home.

More information about discrimination, and the implications of the HRA in relation to email monitoring.

Further reference

The Ministry of Justice: Human Rights

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

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