Redress for Transnational Business-Related Human Rights Abuses in the UK

51 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2016

Date Written: November 6, 2016


This report contributes to ongoing debates about how the United Kingdom can best fulfill its obligations to enable people affected by human rights failures of UK companies abroad to access remedy, with a particular focus on the distinctive role of non-judicial redress systems. The report asks: what effects do transnational non-judicial mechanisms have? Under what conditions do they contribute to human rights remedy? And how can the design and operation of non-judicial redress mechanisms be improved?

In some respects the United Kingdom has shown leadership in establishing principles and processes to protect the human rights of people affected by the overseas operations of UK businesses, in keeping with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The UK has led the way internationally in the creation and revision of a National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights. The UK’s National Contact Point has received the most complaints of any Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) National Contact Point globally. Multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Ethical Trading Initiative have been established in the UK and have attempted to forge collaborative responses involving companies, civil society and labour unions. There are also a small number of cases in which people impacted by the actions of UK companies have successfully brought civil suits in the UK and received compensation. Despite these initiatives spanning administrative, judicial and non-judicial processes, successive reviews have found that remedy remains rare and inaccessible to those harmed by UK companies operating overseas.

The report makes a number of recommendations concerning ways that the UK can improve its business and human rights standing.

Keywords: business and human rights, corporate accountablity

JEL Classification: 130, H7, F60, F66, K20

Suggested Citation

Macdonald, Kate and Marshall, Shelley D. and Miller-Dawkins, May, Redress for Transnational Business-Related Human Rights Abuses in the UK (November 6, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Kate Macdonald

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053

Shelley D. Marshall (Contact Author)

RMIT University ( email )

Melbourne Campus
Building 13
Melbourne, Victoria 3000
+613 99251382 (Phone)


May Miller-Dawkins


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