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The Human Rights Act: e-surveillance, dress codes,

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Recent government regulations and a draft code from the Data Protection Commissioner have left employers and their staff confused about the use of email at work, says the TUC.

At a conference on the Human Rights Act this week (Friday), the TUC will be urging employers to sit down with trade unions to draw up guidance concerning staff use of email and the internet during working hours. With the Industrial Society, the TUC is publishing good practice guidelines for employers and unions regarding the use of email at work.

At “The Human Rights Act: practical implications for workers and unions”, the TUC will congratulate the government on the historic achievement of the Human Rights Act and call on employers and unions to use the Act to benefit the many and not the few. Focusing too heavily on individual cases is the wrong approach, the TUC will say.

Instead, the TUC wants to see human rights principles being used to negotiate agreements covering wider groups of working people – such as better ‘family-friendly’ policies or protection for lesbian and gay workers from harassment.

During the day there will be an impressive line-up of speakers including academics, trade unionists and lawyers looking at the high expectations and uncertainty surrounding the legislation which came into force at the beginning of last month.

Opening the conference at 10am will be TUC President Bill Morris, followed by Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, Matthew Taylor and Laura Cox QC from Cloisters Chambers.

Matrix Chambers barristers Helen Mountfield and Rabinder Singh will talk about the impact of the European Convention on Human Rights and bringing claims under the Human Rights Act. Industrial Society chief executive Will Hutton chairs the afternoon session with speakers Erik Carlslund, European Trade Union Confederation Deputy General Secretary on the proposed EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Professor Keith Ewing from King’s College, London on the possibilities and problems presented by the new UK legislation.

On the morning of the conference the TUC is also releasing a new guide on the Human Rights Act for workers and unions looking at the European Convention, which employers are subject to the Human Rights Act, surveillance at work, dress codes and how to enforce rights at work under the Act.

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