Addressing, Remedying, and Preventing Forced Labour Risks

Forced labour can manifest in different ways. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has developed 11 indicators to help identify possible cases of forced labour. These indicators represent the most common signs or “clues” that point to the possible existence of a forced labour case.

Importantly, these indicators may be found at any point of the recruitment and employment process, meaning forced labour can occur while a worker is applying for a job and while working in the job itself. With an estimated 17 million people in cases of forced labour exploitation in the private sector, it is critical that businesses ensure steps are taken to identify when, where, and why workers may be at risk for forced labour throughout the supply chain. 

Responsible recruitment and employment are essential principles for businesses to uphold in order to address, remedy, and prevent risks for forced labour. HRC members are working to ensure workers in their own operations and supply chains are responsibly recruited and employed by implementing and improving human rights due diligence (HRDD) systems throughout the value chain, as well as advocating for stronger legislative enabling environments to protect the rights of workers.

Tackling Worker-paid Recruitment Fees

In some regions, recruitment fees and costs are a common business model within the recruitment industry and are an important topic to address in the conversation around fighting forced labour. As some workers in global supply chains – particularly migrant workers – may be coerced to pay fees to recruitment agencies in order to secure jobs, they oftentimes must take out high-interest loans to pay these fees, creating financial insecurity. They may also fall into situations of debt bondage, which exists when labourers, sometimes with their families, are forced to work for an employer in order to pay off their own debts or those they have inherited.

Debt bondage is an indicator of forced labour because it can result in workers being unable to freely leave their employer until their debt is paid. According to the ILO, around one-fifth of all people in forced labour exploitation in the private economy are in situations of debt bondage.

As a result, the second CGF Priority Industry Principle, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity, and the Employer Pays Principle (EPP), states that no Worker should pay for a job, and HRC members are working to ensure this Principle is upheld in their supply chains. In 2022, in partnership with AIM-Progress, the HRC released ‘Guidance on the Repayment of Worker-paid Recruitment Fees and Related Costs’ to offer step-by-step guidance to employers on how to approach the topic of remediation if recruitment fees are detected in their supply chain.

Learn More

Download the “Guidance on the Repayment of Worker-paid Recruitment Fees and Related Costs,” a dynamic draft developed by the HRC and AIM-Progress.