10 Human Rights And Ethics In The Workplace

According to the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, “Human rights are the foundation of a healthy society and sustainable business”. Every business, society or corporate entity should put human rights into consideration when making decisions. 

Human right issues are being tackled from different angles in society ranging from agriculture, health, technology, industry, education and so on. Despite the present-day awareness, there are still some marginalized persons whose rights have been trampled on ignorantly. 

Among the rights entrenched in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the following rights need to be upheld. Doing them will also positively affect the ethical uprightness and credibility of your business.

The key to a better world at least in the office is by following these rights and ethics that could be integrated into the workplace.

1. Freedom of belief

Every human has rights to religion or belief. Anyone can choose to be Christian, Muslim, Hinduist, Buddhist, paganist etc. The same person has the right to also change to whatever belief he deems fit at any time.

This should not be a criterion for business or job employability. People should be able to do business or become employed irrespective of their choice of religion.

In some countries, certain religion gets priority when it comes to marriage due to the discrimination towards the other religion(s). For example, in the United Arab Emirates, Muslim women cannot marry non-muslim men, however, non-muslim women can marry Muslim men.

It is necessary that such rules do not take place in the workplace. It is not workable for a sustainable society. Religious sentiments must be put aside as far as business and employability are concerned.

2. Right to work and live anywhere

Every human’s rights must be protected everywhere and anywhere. Africans should be able to do business favourably in Asia without any form of discrimination or racist tendencies.

The same should apply across different countries and continents. Businesses should be able to thrive responsibly without considering anyone’s colour, race, sexual orientation or background.

In September 2019, there was a serious crisis between the South Africans and Nigerians in South Africa. Nigerians living in South Africa were victims of apartheid and racism. As a result of this crisis, businesses were shut down and properties worth millions were destroyed.

Some Nigerians were being stoned and worst still, burnt alive by South Africans. This is a serious infringement on human rights. All humans are equal no matter where they find themselves. This particular crisis sparked a lot of reactions in the local, international and global scene.

3. Right to prior notice

In the contemporary world we live in, most workers’ rights are set aside. In a sane society, workers should not be sacked impromptu – It is unethical. If any staff is to be sacked from duty, they have the right to know beforehand. 

The same applies to the employee. A worker should not leave an organization until he follows due process. The employee should give a notice of resignation. In some cases, the employee/employer gives 2-3 weeks’ notice prior to sack or resignation as the case may be.

On ethical grounds, both parties (the employee and employer) must fulfil their part of the agreement. That is why it is expedient that an agreement or statement document be duly signed at the beginning of job placement.

4. The right to education/training

Any organization that doesn’t push for the growth and development of its staff is heading for failure. The human capital of any organization is one of its greatest assets. It is a great asset to have people who are hard-working, resilient and diligent in their line of duty.

Hence, organizations must hold their human capital (employees) in high esteem. They must constantly invest in the growth of their staff. One of the ways to achieve this is through research and development.

A growing number of staff in various organizations need continuous training. Organizations that want to constantly grow will invest in the training of its staff. In cases when they cannot afford the training, staff willing to go for training should go on their accord.

This will not only positively affect their capacity building but also their productivity at work. The growth of any organization is incomplete without investment in research, education and development. Set up periodic training to aid productivity and maintain relevance in business.

5. We are all equal before the law

Before the law, the CEO or Managing Director (MD) is the same as the janitor in an organization. What is good for the goose is good for the gander also.

If an organization has an increment in salary, this should cut across all levels of staff in the organization. The only exception should be when it is on grounds of performance or appraisal.

6. Right of expression

Businesses thrive better in a free and fair world. People should be able to make decisions without the fear of being marginalized.

Everybody has the equal right to freedom of expression and speech as much as it doesn’t negatively affect the company. In businesses and organizations, there is bound to be disagreements which can be settled amicably.

7. No discrimination at work

Businesses should inculcate the “no discrimination” policy in their operations and code of ethics. People should be employed based on skill sets, experience and capabilities and not based on bias. There should be no discrimination between the rich and the poor. 

Except it is a measure to prevent other problems, jobs should be given to individuals irrespective of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, skin colour, religious affiliations or backgrounds.

In time past, there have been controversies regarding some workplace policies. In the recruitment process of some organizations, it is clearly spelt out that only a certain religion should apply for a given role. 

This sends a wrong notion that people of other religions who cannot get the job. This is understandable if the organization is owned, funded and run by the religion which could mean that certain religious activities are expected to be observed at work or around work premises.

As much as possible, companies should include NO DISCRIMINATION POLICY in their employment policy.

8. The right to life

Every human has the right to life. No business should deprive people of this fundamental human right to life. This implies that no one, including the Government, should put an end to your life.

It also means that appropriate measures should be taken by the Government to safeguard your life by making laws that protect you especially when your life is at risk.

Cases of torture meted on workers in diamond mines in Africa have been recorded. In Colombia, it was also alleged that foreign companies were sued for paying paramilitaries to intimidate and kill union leaders.

This is a total breach of the human right to life. Workplaces should ensure that such acts do not exist in its operations.

9. Right to be free, not enslaved

During the slave trade era, humans were sold to other countries especially Europe as slaves for slave masters. The human rights of these people were not protected. In the 21st century, though we are no more in the age of slavery, modern-day slavery still exists. One of such is mental slavery.

There are organizations that overburden their staff without paying them the equivalent of their work as wages or salary.

For example, some university graduates in developing countries earn peanuts as monthly salary. Whereas, the nature of work they do and the process involved are unbelievable. This is not right.

Read: Proven ways to promote core values in the workplace

10. Security

The place of security cannot be overemphasized for businesses and individuals. It is the responsibility of the government of any nation to provide social security for its populace. The company also has to secure its staff.

Inasmuch as the bigger responsibility is on the government, businesses still have a role to play. This is done by paying a certain amount of tax for social security. It is the collective effort of all.

Workers who get an injury while working for any organization has the right to get compensation. You can visit website here to learn about the legal requirements of filing a personal injury claim. 

Female workers who go for maternity leave should resume work without the fear of risks. They shouldn’t also be ripped off their jobs because of certain circumstances except it is life-threatening.

Businesses can only provide security in the form of incentives or certain allowances for their staff. It could be accommodation, health insurance (HMO), living allowances and whatever makes the worker more efficient.


There are certain brands that have carved their names in sands of time for respecting human rights. These brands over the years have global recognition due to their mode of operations.

In no particular order, the top 5 businesses include:


Total has its human rights linked to the United Nations’ principles on business and human rights. The approach adopted by TOTAL is based on the following pillars:

  • Written principles: These include code of conduct and human rights.
  • Awareness actions: TOTAL ensures that it disseminates its human rights principles among its staff. They achieve this through corporate communication channels. Examples are the Ethics and Security Intranet Sites, four awareness-raising videos on the group’s human rights standards. Total tailors specific training programs to the various challenges encountered in the field.
  • Listening and advise bodies: There are two specific bodies; the Ethics committee and the Compliance and Social Responsibility Department. These two are there to advise employees and coordinate efforts to promote human rights.
  • Assessment tools: These tools regularly assess the subsidiaries human right policies and the risk they face.

Furthermore, TOTAL has a robust approach towards stakeholders’ engagement which includes the workers and the local communities where they operate

2. Marks and Spencer (M&S)

This global brand has appointed practitioners for each of the business areas (food, clothing, HR, logistics, procurement and marketing) who are responsible for the following:

  • Understanding the company’s greatest human rights risks
  • Conducting due diligence
  • Integrating responses into the policies and internal systems
  • Tracking actions and communicating with stakeholders.

According to the company’s human right policy, there are seven priority human rights issues. They include;

  • Discrimination
  • Forced labour
  • Freedom of association
  • Health and safety
  • Living wages
  • Water and sanitation
  • Working hours

Other areas that are very keen on include child labour, land rights, secure work and privacy. There is something unique about Marks and Spencer – they constantly amend their approach to human rights in order to meet the demands of present realities.

3. Microsoft

Microsoft is among the notable brands that support and respect human rights.

In 2012, Microsoft citizenship report says it uses its size and leadership to influence government behaviours around the world.

Microsoft has zero-tolerance for child labour and child pornography.

Read: Contingent workers you should have on your team

4. Nestle

Paul Bulcke, the Chairman of Nestle said something. He said, “We have formally incorporated our human rights commitment into our corporate business principles and management principles. These are the guiding principles we expect each and every Nestle employee to live by every day.

This statement shows the level at which Nestle as a business and brand commits itself to protect human rights.

Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) Program enshrines the company’s human right strategy which comprises the following:

  • Policies
  • Stakeholders’ engagement and partnerships
  • Training and awareness
  • Risk and impact assessment
  • Salient issues
  • Governance
  • Grievance mechanisms
  • Monitoring and reporting

5. Adidas

Adidas, a global brand, has a brand strategy that respects human rights. Here’s the summary of the company’s policies and standards in the following areas:

  • Labour right charter
  • Code of conduct for employers: “fair play”
  • Code of conduct for suppliers: “workplace standards”
  • Modern Slavery Policy
  • Policy on Responsible Recruitment
  • Responsible sourcing and purchasing a policy.
  • Integrated management system Policy for Health, safety, environment and energy.
  • Corporate giving guidelines.

All of these policies are on the company’s website for more clarification.

In conclusion, businesses must adhere to human right policies to attain a high level of productivity and relevance. It is obvious that well-recognized business brands attained their envied position because they respected human rights policies.

Infographic Workplace Ethics

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Post Author: Abimbola Joseph

Abimbola Joseph is a creative content developer who derives pleasure in encouraging individuals to be the best they can be in all relevant facets of life. She believes that we all have a better version of ourselves which can be leveraged to impact others and make the world a better place. Connect with me on Instagram @abimbolajoe.

2 Replies to “10 Human Rights And Ethics In The Workplace”

  1. This is the best guide of human rights And ethics In the workplace. Every person has a right to equal treatment in employment without discrimination. Thanks for this useful post.

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