ABSTRACT

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment’ (UN 1948: Article 23[1]). In practice, however, no right to work exists in British law. The availability and choice of employment are subject to market forces and, although macro-economic and local development policies may aim to create jobs, employment for all is not and never has been guaranteed. Rights at work are not, strictly speaking, social rights in the sense that previous chapters have given to that term, but primarily civil or contractual rights. None the less, contracts of employment are subject to legislative regulation and where workers' rights are guaranteed by statute they are often referred to — particularly within the European Union — as social rights. In Britain limited protection exists, for example, against unfair dismissal, but ultimately there is no protection against unemployment. To the extent that social security provision exists for the protection of people during unemployment, the rights afforded by such provision are clearly tied to a duty rather than a right to work.