Business and Human Rights

The question of whether businesses value and uphold human rights in their cultures and supply chains is a hotter topic than ever. The signs are that both consumers and regulators increasingly expect companies to demonstrate a commitment to human rights in the delivery of their products. Business is expected to drive change at home and overseas through the values invested in supply chains. Where companies fall short, they increasingly face both reputational and legal consequences. 

A true commitment to upholding and advancing human rights is therefore increasingly good for business, whereas treating them as an afterthought puts prosperity at risk. 

Our lawyers are expert advisers on human rights. We can identify the points of contact between your business and human rights, and inform your decision making as you choose your path forward.

Corporate crime, now more than ever, is a law enforcement priority. The desire of the public, media and parliament to “hold companies to account” means that there is an increasing appetite for corporate prosecutions.

Our lawyers frequently act for corporate clients in the most complex and fraught situations. Developments in the criminal law mean that those situations can now arise out of failures in relation to human rights. 

The advent of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and new powers to allow for the recovery of property obtained through conduct which “constitutes or is connected with” the commission of a gross human rights abuse or violation (the so-called “Magnistky clause”) means that companies are in the spotlight like never before.  

A full service firm 

Our public law team has over twenty-five years of in depth and substantial experience acting on all sides of the most significant challenges to, and inquiries into, the activities of government, public bodies and major institutions. Many of these cases have involved controversy over whether human rights have been violated (see notable cases below). We also work with major statutory regulators to ensure their operations are compliant with all aspects of the Human Rights Act 1998 and advise businesses on compliance with Modern Slavery legislation. We have advised companies on preparing the slavery and human trafficking statements required by the Act. These set out what steps organisations have taken to ensure modern slavery is not taking place in their business or supply chains. Our experience means we understand how human rights can affect your business, and the advice you need to harness the benefits of a strong human rights culture.

When things go wrong, our criminal team conducts internal investigations on behalf of corporate clients and has significant expertise in advising companies caught up in criminal and regulatory investigations. Our media and reputation management team deal with crisis management when companies find themselves in the spotlight.

Our employment team has significant experience of representing employers who are seeking to handle and investigate employee whistleblowing disclosures, as well as senior professionals considering blowing the whistle, or facing detriment or dismissal as a result. We have supported companies with their obligations under the Modern Slavery Act.

We have vast experience in advising witnesses or suspects in every format: voluntary and compelled interviews, as well as interviews under caution whether on a voluntary basis or following arrest. We offer our clients our experienced advice at every stage of the process: dawn raids, search and seizure; restraint and confiscation; parallel criminal and regulatory proceedings; investigations and proceedings in multiple jurisdictions.

These complementary skills in managing regulatory obligations, guiding business decision making, crisis management, investigation and defence mean however your business encounters human rights issues, we can help.

Notable cases

  • Gentle (Article 2 ECHR and the adequacy of steps taken to ensure the legality of the invasion of Iraq)
  • Al Skeini (Article 2 ECHR sand the deaths of Iraqi civilians)
  • Purdy (Art 2, prosecution policy and assisted suicide) Crompton (Article 8, removal of Chief Constable from office).



Business and Human Rights Insights

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Guest blog: Corporate criminal liability under international law

Guest blog: Should companies have a duty to prevent human rights abuses?

Guest blog: How to get the attention of the board on human rights

Business and Human Rights: Magnitsky clause now in force

Opaque, unpredictable, diminished? Parliamentary committee commentary suggests the human rights consequences of #Brexit withdrawal legislation “appear to be contrary to the Government’s intent”

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