Human rights: How to make your business compliant


The subject of human rights is so important that many businesses are now employing human rights managers. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Businesses play a big role in either upholding or defeating human rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

Some, as contained in the bills of rights include the right to life, equality, freedom from discrimination, the right to human dignity, protection from slavery and forced labour, right to privacy, and freedom of opinion.

Others are freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, political rights, freedom of movement, right to property, labour rights, environment rights, consumer rights, fair administration rights, access to justice and right to fair hearing amongst others.

Yet despite the existence of a very detailed bill of rights framework, businesses abuse a lot of human rights. For instance, how many times have you heard cases of businesses sued for employing discriminating labour practices at work?

Obligations and benefits

Businesses have an obligation to uphold the Bill of Rights. By being compliant, they derive several benefits.

The first is legal risk reduction.

Secondly, a business that upholds human rights gains a good reputation. The opposite is true for businesses that commit human rights abuses.

The overall performance of a business can be affected by negative publicity. For example, years ago, a leading chain of restaurants in Kenya faced a lot of backlash due to perceived racism. There was a lot of negativity on social media and an eventual boycott of the restaurant.

The subject of human rights is so important that many businesses are now employing human rights managers. These are professionals who assist businesses to understand and comply with human rights issues. They advise on human rights compliance and also document incidences of rights abuse. They are so important in today’s organisations that in some boards a human rights committee has become essential.

Compliance steps

How then do you help your business become compliant with human rights issues?

The first step is to undertake a general legal awareness and training on the bill of rights. It is crucial for the business and its senior managers to have a good understanding of human rights issues.

Secondly, it would be important for the business to undertake a general audit of human rights issues. The audit entails an in-depth analysis of the human rights issues in every facet of the business.

An audit would entail listing down the necessary human rights compliance issues for the business and comparing the existing practices and procedures against the legal requirements.

The purpose of this audit is to identify any gap area, which could be in the area of policy, practice or procedure. Once the gap area is listed, then the business can make a recommendation on how it can comply.

For example, an audit may reveal that the business has not complied with data privacy provisions as enshrined in the Constitution and other laws. If this is the case, then it would be listed as a finding in the gap analysis.

A recommendation would then be made on how to comply. For example, the business can decide to put in place a data privacy framework.

Ms Mputhia is the founder of C Mputhia Advocates | [email protected]

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