Rights can be described legally as enforceable entitlements, normatively as informal expressions of our values and expectations: what people should have and how we should stand in relation to one another, or they can be viewed instrumentally as practical tools to advocate or campaign for oneself or others. Social rights, which include the right to work and the right to social security are central to, and the foundations of, social policy (Dean, 2015: 3).

Human Rights are a particular subset of rights. There are disagreements about exactly which rights are human rights, what makes a right a human right and their effect, but from a legal perspective the rights in the core international human rights conventions and declarations are now generally accepted as human rights which apply to everyone, everywhere.

Human rights are often sub-divided in theory and practice into civil and political (first generation rights) on the one hand, and economic cultural and social rights (second generation rights) on the other. The twin covenants of 1966: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), reinforce this distinction by separating out the two sets of rights and providing different obligations for states and methods of enforcement for the two. The ICCPR has the stronger obligations and methods of redress.

The Right to Work is considered a human right and a social right.