Added value of human rights in impact assessment

In addition to the above the integration of human rights into your impact assessment approach will assist to:

  • Broaden the scope of impact assessment

  • Provide a framework for balancing competing rights, interests and risks

  • Highlight the most serious impacts

 Broaden the scope of impact assessment

The public sector equality duty covers the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation as well as marriage and civil partnerships, with regard to eliminating unlawful discrimination in employment.

Human rights however, belong to all of us regardless of status or any protected characteristic. The universality of rights and the equal enjoyment of rights by all persons provides a different perspective on some of the policy areas considered in the case studies and pilots.

As human rights apply to everyone, taking an human rights based approach complements an equality analysis by prompting consideration of whether the impact of a policy on people’s rights is acceptable and also how a policy might drive up standards of services and enhance positive impacts for all people, not only those defined by particular characteristics. It could mean that impacts disproportionately affecting vulnerable, disadvantaged or voiceless communities are considered where they might otherwise be overlooked. This would include, for example, consideration of impacts on people living in poverty or homeless people.

A Framework for balancing competing rights, interests and risk

A human rights analysis can help balance competing rights and interests of different people.  This is because very few rights are absolute. Most human rights can be interfered with when justified, in pursuit of a legitimate aim, such as the protection of the rights of others, and proportionate, that is the minimum necessary interference in pursuit of a legitimate aim.

By demonstrating that policy and decision making takes account of the rights of everyone an impact assessment can support the understanding that there are rights to be respected for all communities, whilst also paying regard to people with protected characteristics.  This will assist in fostering good relations as well as promoting equality under the Equality Act.

Furthermore an understanding of human rights and the concept of proportionality helps to balance rights and risks in decision making, getting the balance right between protecting people from risk of harm and upholding autonomy. Human rights require that we act to protect people at risk of serious harm. They require that any restriction on our right to live our life as we choose must be based on law, pursue a “legitimate aim” (such as protecting the rights of others), and be the least restrictive effective means of achieving that aim. Understanding the balance of these rights and duties provides a framework for making difficult decisions about balancing risk and rights.

Highlighting most serious impacts

Human rights are fundamentally about the human dignity of all of us and the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives.

A human rights analysis will identify where impacts on people with protected characteristic or others reach a threshold which could amount to a human rights violation. This includes but is not limited to  those impacts already identified by an equality analysis. Taking an human rights based approach helps mitigate the risk of negative outcomes for everyone, regardless of whether they disproportionately impact any one group. In human rights terms everyone must be treated with dignity and respect.