The International Labour Conventions (ILO) and their role in UK law

Worker with a hammer in his hand and another worker wielding in the background

What is the International Labour Organization (ILO)?

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the only tripartite U.N. agency. Since 1919 the ILO has brought together governments, employers, and workers of 187 member States (including the UK), to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

What are the Conventions and Laws of the ILO?

The list of International Labour Organization Conventions totals 190 laws which aim to improve the labour standards of people around the world. There are eight fundamental Conventions which are binding upon every member country of the International Labour Organization from the fact of membership, since the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in 1998. The other Conventions are binding upon member countries whose legislatures have chosen to ratify them. Once ratified, because there is no international labour court as such, Conventions rely for their enforcement by the member state’s domestic courts.

What are the Fundamental Conventions?

There are eight Fundamental Conventions of the ILO which must be ratified by all member states. They are:

1. Forced Labour Convention (1930)

– This imposes an oligation for members to “completely suppress such forced or compulsory labour”, with exceptions for military, civil service, court orders, for emergencies and minor communal orders.

2. Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention (1948)

– This gives the right to autonomy in union organisation, for furthering and defending workers’ interests by collective bargaining and collective action.

3. Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (1949)

– This gives protection against discrimination for joining a trade union, promotion of voluntary collective agreements and taking collective action.

4. Equal Remuneration Convention (1951)

– This promotes the right to equal pay, without any discrimination on grounds of gender.

5. Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, (1957)

– This requires a positive obligation on member states to ensure that all forced labour is abolished.

6. Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (1958)

– This convention sets out the right to not be discriminated against on grounds of “race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin”, or other grounds determined by member states, in employment.

7. Minimum Age Convention (1973)

– This sets out the requirement that people are at least 15, or a higher age determined by member states, or 14 for member states whose education systems are developing, before working, and 18 years old before carrying out dangerous work.

8. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999).

– This convention sets out a duty upon member states to identify and take steps to prohibit the worst forms of child labour (slavery, prostitution, drug trafficking and other dangerous jobs).

Which Laws and Conventions have the UK adopted?

The UK has ratified all of the eight Fundamental Conventions and has implemented all of them into law. Of the other Conventions around half have been ratified and implemented. The list is too long for this blog but further information can be found on the ILO’s website by following the link below.

If you have an employment law issue, are being discriminated against, being treated unfairly or being bullied at work you may have a claim against your employer. Why not contact one of Alexander JLO’s expert employment lawyers for a free no obligation consultation and see what we can do for you?

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