International Labour Review, Vol. 159 (2020), No. 3
Copyright © International Labour Organization 2020
Journal compilation © International Labour Organization 2020
Research handbook on labour, business and human rights law,
edited by Janice R. BELLACE and Beryl TER HAAR. Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2019.
528 pp. (xx + 490 + Index). ISBN 978 1 78643 3107 and eISBN 978 1 78643 311 4.
This book aims to explore the ways in which human rights apply to people at work
through national constitutional provisions, judicial decisions and the application of
rights expressed in supranational instruments. To a large extent it achieves that aim.
As in many edited volumes, the chapters range in strength, but almost all are of top
quality. And while the choice of countries selected can always be debated (Europe is
overrepresented here), the volume reects a range of contexts in which human rights
and labour rights have struggled to be respected in practice around the world. There
is relatively little that provides a business perspective, however.
Part I comprises the editors’ short introduction, in which they point to a shift over
time in the terms commonly used, from labour standards to labour rights to human
rights. They correctly note that whatever term is used, “the values are timeless” (p. 14).
At the same time, they also highlight how the logic of a State-based human rights and
labour law regime sits uneasily with global supply chain governance, lending more
importance to soft law approaches. However, the introductory section falls somewhat
short of its title, “Conceptualizing labour and human rights law: Perspectives on la-
bour and human rights”. This may in part be due to the fact that the book was com-
piled prior to the appearance in print of considerable scholarship on this topic on the
occasion of the centenary of the ILO.1
Some of the detail in the introductory chapter is questionable, including the
editors’ restrictive interpretation of the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951
(No. 100) (pp. 7–8). No reference is made to the accompanying Recommendation
(No. 9 0) and to relevant reports of the ILO supervisory bodies, nor to substantial
recent work on measurement methodology and tools for tackling the gender wage
gap, available through the Equal Pay International Coalition.2
Part II focuses on sources in national law, examining a total of 11 countries, div-
ided into sections on civil law and common law systems. Several of the chapters in
this section oer solid, informative and up-to-date reports on labour rights in various
countries (such as Yonezu on Japan, and Lyutov and Gerasimova on the Russian Fed-
eration), but some deal only eetingly if at all with human rights in the broader sense.
The chapter on the Russian Federation is more widely cast, launching a convincing at-
tack on various methods used by international nancial institutions to rank countries’
1 For recent in-depth reection on the ILO and other actors, see for example A. Blackett and L.R. Helfer:
“Introduction to the symposium on transnational futures of international labour law”, in AJIL Unbound,
Vol. 113, 2019, pp. 385–389; and J.E. Alvarez: “Frameworks for understanding the ILO”, in G.P. Politakis,
T. Kohiyama and T. Lieby (eds): ILO100 – Law for social justice, Geneva, ILO, 2019, pp. 59–89.
2 For information on this coalition, led by the ILO, UN Women and the Organisation for Economic Co-
operation and Development, see https://www.equalpayinternationalcoalition.org/.