Workers’ rights include a large array of human rights including the right to decent work, freedom of association, equal opportunity and protection against discrimination. Rights at the workplace include health and safety in the workplace and the right to privacy at work, amongst many others. Given the relationship between workers, their employers, and the state, worker’s rights are often highlighted as the situation where ‘business’ and ‘human rights’ most often intersects.
Workers’ rights at the international level are laid out in number of human rights conventions and treaties including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Articles 23 and 24, 1948) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) which provide for:
- the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts;
- the right to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work, in particular remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value, and a decent living for themselves and their families;
- Safe and healthy working conditions;
- Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in his employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no considerations other than those of seniority and competence;
- and rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays;
- the right of everyone to form and join the trade union of his choice and the right to strike, provided that it is exercised in conformity with the laws of the particular country.
Since 1919, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has developed a system of international labour standards, legal instruments drawn up by the ILO’s constituents (governments, employers and workers) setting out basic principles and rights at work. The ILO’s Governing Body has identified eight conventions as “fundamental”, focusing on the freedom of association and collective bargaining equal remuneration, non- discrimination, and eliminating forced and child labour. Other ILO Conventions cover issues, from wages, working hours, occupational health and safety, maternity protection, and social security.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) highlight the state’s responsibility to have adequate laws in place to protect workers’ rights, give guidance to businesses on what is expected of them, and to ensure adequate enforcement of these laws. (UNGPs 1-3) Guiding Principle 12, states that “[t]he responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights refers to internationally recognized human rights – understood, at a minimum, as those expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles concerning fundamental rights set out in the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.”
Goal 8 of The Sustainable Development Goals is entitled ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’, with the aim to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. The ILO have highlighted how this is central to sustainable development.
Most states have legislative protections for workers’ rights, although gaps exist between policy and practice in a number of jurisdictions. Businesses should ensure that they respect the local laws protecting workers’ rights, and in situations where these laws fall short of international standards (e.g. local legislation prohibiting the formation of trade unions) aim to adhere to the higher standard.
An example of measures to protect workers’ rights can be found in the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) which established three criminal offences: (i) slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour (s1), (ii) human trafficking (s2) and (iii) committing any offence with the intent to commit human trafficking (s4). The first case under the MSA resulted in the High Court of England and Wales holding that a company had failed to pay the national minimum wage, had made unlawful deductions from wages and had failed to provide adequate facilities to wash, rest, eat and drink, and were ordered to pay compensation to the victims. The first conviction of a UK business person for conspiracy to traffic was in connection with the supply of labour and saw him sentenced to 27 months in jail.
A further example of measures to protect workers’ can be seen in the area of the gender pay gap. The UK has introduced legislation and regulations which mandates that employers with over 250 employees publish their gender pay gap data and a written statement on their public-facing website and report their data to government online – using the gender pay gap reporting service on the following areas:
- Gender pay gap (mean and median averages);
- Gender bonus gap (mean and median averages);
- Proportion of men and women receiving bonuses;
- Proportion of men and women in each quartile of the organisation’s pay structure.
There are also examples of measures taken to protect workers’ rights includes addressing family or domestic violence in the workplace. A study of domestic violence in Canada and its impact on the workplace has found more than one third of workers across the country experienced domestic violence in their lifetime, and for more than half of those affected, the violence followed them to work. Family or domestic violence is often illegal under wider criminal laws, but certain jurisdictions, including a number in Canada and the USA, have introduced legislation to address the issue. A number of guides and tools have been produced on designing and adopting measures within businesses. A number of businesses have adopted policies on addressing family and domestic violence within the workplace.
Workers’ rights relate to the following Sustainable Development Goals
What National Action Plans say on Workers’ rights
In the baseline analysis, workers’ rights was identified as one of the core issues that the NAP should cover.
Action point 8
Encourage international framework agreements
This point briefly mentions that international agreements “are mainly based on the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.” And that “a large number of agreements are also targeting suppliers and subcontractors”. It also describes that in September 2007, the International Metalworkers’ Federation, the International Federation of Chemical Workers and Umicore concluded an international framework agreement, including the respect for human rights, labor rights and the environment . Umicore’s agreement was the first ever concluded by a Belgian multinational company.
Action point 13
Strengthen and monitor the respect for human rights in public procurement
The NAP explains that procurement policy considers compliance with the Basic Conventions of the International Labor Organization as an essential performance criterion. However, procurement policy could also include more specific emphasis on the respect for other human and labour rights.
- The Flemish government adds that “sustainable public procurement is an important lever in promoting the respect for workers’ rights. They are a good way to encourage and/or require companies to formally commit themselves to better working conditions internally and within their international supply chains.
Action point 14
Evaluate the Belgian label to promote socially responsible production
This point presents “the Belgian label” that was a product label created in 2002 and promulgated by law to promote socially responsible production. Companies able to demonstrate that core labor standards were respected throughout their production chain for their products and services, can apply the “Belgian social label” to these products and services. The Minister for Economic Affairs grants the label on the basis of a binding opinion by a stakeholder committee.
While the Belgian social label guarantees consumers the respect for human rights, and labor rights in particular, throughout the entire supply chain, a series of limitations seem to have held back its success. The planned action includes drawing up these limitations, so that solutions can be formulated for the relaunch of a new upgraded label. Moreover, the NAP suggests that the information collected from the research may be useful for the discussion on introducing a “Made in Europe” label, which should promote respect for European standards, including the respect for human rights, with particular attention on workers’ rights and products.
Action point 17
Advocate for strengthening the integration of sustainable development (including human rights) in free trade agreements
The federal government states that during negotiations at the European level, Belgium will advocate for the respect and inclusion of fundamental labour rights and international environmental standards – including in cases of development cooperation – in investment agreements and free trade agreements.
- The government of Wallonia states that it will continue to advocate for the revision of model texts used in negotiations of commercial treaties in order for them to specifically respect human rights, labour rights and social norms, as well as environmental measures, accompanied by financial or commercial sanctions.
Action point 26
Pay particular attention to the ratification of a series of ILO conventions to health and safety at work
This point addresses the issue of workers’ rights, particularly the issue of the right to health and security at work. Engagements will include the ratification of:
- ILO Convention No. 187 on Occupational Safety and Health.
- ILO Convention No. 167 on Safety and Health in Construction.
- Convention No. 170 on Safety in the Use of Chemical Substances at Work
The government explains that by ratifying these key safety and health conventions “Belgium will not only strengthen its own occupational health and safety system, but also to encourage
other countries to follow through.”
Action point 28
Implementation of the Flemish Action Plan “Sustainable International Entrepreneurship 2014-2015-2016”
The government of Flanders states that “besides the need to raise awareness of international guidelines and to provide support for their implementation, there is a specific need for practical advice and instructions (on environmental standards, labor rights, human rights) to apply sustainable international entrepreneurship in selected countries and sectors.
Pillar 1: The State Duty to Protect Human Rights
Strand 1: Training in the Field of Business and Human Rights
Action Point 1.3 (pages 30-31)
The Ministry of Labour will:
- Train workers about their rights and the Guiding Principles through the introduction of subjects related with business and human rights in the study programmes of the Trade Union School, with emphasis, inter alia, on labour rights and child labour.
- Train businesses (guilds, confederations, associations and SMEs), unions and civil servants on business and human rights, emphasising labour rights.
- Inform users about this Action Plan through a banner uploaded in the ministry’s website portal -aimed at providing additional information on this topic, and showing the measures that the ministry is carrying out in the relevant field.
Strand 3: Inclusion and Non-Discrimination
Action Point 3.2 (page 36)
The Ministry of Social Development will:
Organise, through the Indigenous Affairs Coordination Unit, a Coordination Board including the participation of indigenous peoples and relevant organisations with the purpose of proposing non-discrimination and inclusion measures in the labour market. This Board will take into consideration the international standards set out in Covenant 169, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the recommendations gathered from the citizens’ dialogues held within the framework of the National Action Plan about the subject.
Strand 4: Transparency and Participation
Action Point 4.7 (page 41)
The Ministry of Labour will strengthen participation mechanisms, applying a preventive focus, processes and consultation and dialogue mechanisms through the Labour Higher Council.
Strand 6: Strengthening Coherence between Public Policies
Action Point 6.5 (pages 46-47)
The Under-Secretariat of Social Security of the Ministry of Labour will coordinate national, regional and tripartite efforts concerning the National Programme for Health and Safety in the Workplace. This Programme seeks to promote the development of a national culture of prevention in health and safety issues; contribute to the protection of workers through the elimination of work-related dangers and risks, or to their reduction to a minimum level, with the purpose of preventing injuries, diseases and deaths caused by work and promote health and safety in the workplace. Implementation will be based on ILO Convention No. 187 about the Framework for Health and Safety in the Workplace and the Programme of Government of the President of the Republic, through a regional and nations process consultation to representatives of the employers, workers, government entities and bodies responsible for enforcing Law No. 16,744.
Strand 8: Legislation, Policies and Incentives
Action Point 8.3. (page 49)
The Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Social Development will continue promoting labour inclusion through the creation of the regulation supporting the Labour Inclusion Law, thus fostering inclusion from a human rights perspective.
- Action point 1.3 (p. 10): the Expert Committee has one elected by the confederations of workers’ unions.
- Action point 4.3 (p. 15):
“With the purpose of preventing enterprises from engaging in actions involving any kind of discrimination, the National Government will boost the knowledge transfer and the transfer of the developed tools in the context of the National Human Rights Strategy in respect of rights to equality and non-discrimination.”
- Action point 4.4 (p. 15):
“Within the State Policy for the LGBTI population, which the National Government is preparing, business practices respecting, recognizing and appreciating this population’s diversity will be supported.”
- Action point 4.5 (p. 15):
“The Ministry of Labor will advise the businessmen on the labor inclusion of people with disabilities and employment mediation services, in agreement with the National Public Policy on Disability and Social Inclusion.”
- Action point 4.6 (p. 15):
“The Council to the President for Women Equality will strengthen the coordination for the application of the international standards on women’s rights, intended to guarantee such rights in the business world.”
- Action point 4.9 (p. 15):
“The Ministry of Labor will strengthen actions aiming at protecting the rights to union freedom and collection negotiations.”
- Action point 4.10:
“The Ministry of Labor will propose the inclusion of the business and human rights matter in the National Agreement Commission and in the Social Talk Plans of the Department Agreement Subcommittees.”
- Action point 6.4 (p. 18):
“The Council to the President for Human Rights, the Colombian Agency for Reintegration and the Post-Conflict Directorate will prepare a joint strategy for companies to actively promote major participation of people in the reintegration process into the business field, in the production field, and in the peacebuilding processes.”
- Action point 7.3 (p. 19):
“The Ministry of Labor will guarantee respect for the labor rights.”
- Action point 11.4 (p. 24):
“The Ministry of Labor and the Public Employment Services will continue to support the talks among workers, unions, enterprises and government for negotiation, as well as the employment mediation and agreement through the mechanisms defined for such purpose.”
Most serious infringements of working conditions [page 16-18]
“Implements Principles 1, 2 and 8
Even in advanced countries, we come across cases where employees find themselves in a highly vulnerable position and are required to put up with undignified working conditions, and where their employer, for instance, refuses to pay them. The victims of this abuse are frequently foreign nationals as they have limited opportunity to defend themselves. Evidence of such practices can also be found in the Czech Republic. [The footnote states that “In 2008, an organised group was detected that had been recruiting farmworkers abroad. These recruits, sometimes working between 12 and 18 hours a day, were paid only a fraction of the wages they had been promised (Judgment of the Supreme Court 7 Tdo 1261/2013 of 12 March 2014). In 2009, there was a case where at least 22 construction workers were found to have been enslaved for up to 2 years (Judgment of the Supreme Court 4 Tdo 366/2013 of 14 May 2013). Between 2009 and 2011, there were several cases of large-scale labour exploitation involving up to several hundred workers in the forestry sector (Finding of the Constitutional Court II. ÚS 3436/14 of 19 January 2016 and Finding of the Constitutional Court I. ÚS 3196/12 of 12 August 2014).”] Those working in other people’s households are another risk group. Such actions have fallout for employees, for the state (which is robbed of taxes and insurance contributions), and for honest businesses, who cannot compete with such labour.
Whereas minor cases of labour-law violations are subject to checks by labour inspection bodies, more serious cases can be prosecuted as crimes. However, for these modern-day unfair practices to be detected and prevented effectively, there needs to be coordinated cooperation between many state bodies and social partners. There may be numerous labour-law violations in supply chains, via temporary employment agencies, or at entities that act as recruiters but do not hold a permit to do so. To make it possible to stamp out these most serious forms of abuse, businesses themselves should pay attention to working conditions at their partners and, if they detect any breaches of the law, they should either demand that corrective action be taken or sever ties. The state’s role here is to create a functioning labour market that will not cater to illegal practices. This does not mean just the repression of the perpetrators, but also the shaping of conditions conducive to the legal employment of foreign nationals.
Current state of play:
- The Czech Republic has ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Private Employment Agencies Convention (Convention No 181).
- Directive 2008/104/EC on temporary agency work, regulating this area at EU level, and Directive 2009/52/EC providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals have been transposed into Czech law.
- A methodological guideline of the Inspector General of the State Labour Inspectorate Authority has been issued to harmonise inspection procedures in checks focusing on temporary agency work.
- The constituent elements of misdemeanours and administrative offences in labour law are being clarified.
- A law is being drawn up that will tighten conditions for the establishment and operation of temporary employment agencies. Users drawing on the services of such agencies are to be made co-responsible for the observance of commensurable wage and working conditions for temporary employees, and compulsory deposits are being introduced for each agency.
- The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs hosts the Interministerial Body to Combat the Illegal Employment of Foreign Nationals, which plays a coordinating role, and the Economic and Social Agreement Council’s Working Party on the Mediation of Employment by Temporary Employment Agencies.
- A Concept for the Prevention of the Labour Exploitation of European Union Citizens in the Czech Republic has been produced.
- The Czech Republic activity combats human trafficking in accordance with the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking in the Czech Republic 2016-2019.
- Czech law contains procedures to help victims of human trafficking to legalise their stay [g. Section 42e of Act No 326/1999 on the residence of foreign nationals in the Czech Republic and amending certain acts, as amended] and to find work. [E.g. Section 97(d) and Section 98(p) of Act No 435/2004 on employment.] Although victims can take their claims to the civil courts, lawsuits tend to be lengthy and arduous for someone who cannot speak the language, is unfamiliar with the legal system, and does not have the money for a lawyer. In criminal proceedings, victims may be represented by an agent, such as a non-profit organisation. [Section 50 of Act No 141/1961 on criminal proceedings (the Code of Criminal Procedure).]
- Under the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking in the Czech Republic 2016-2019, an analysis is being conducted of flaws in selected labour-law regulations that could pander to an exploitative working environment (Task 1 of the National Strategy).
- Focus, via labour inspection bodies, on unravelling the illegal employment of foreign nationals and running checks on temporary employment agencies and other entities acting as recruiters without the necessary permit.
Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
- Evaluate the implementation of Directive 2009/52/EC providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals. The evaluation will include an analysis of the extra administrative burden and the ramifications for businesses.
Coordinator: Ministry of the Interior
Co-coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
Deadline: 31 December 2022
- Assess whether illegal employment is genuinely being earnestly prosecuted.
Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
Deadline: Running, with a comprehensive assessment on 31 December 2022
- Make arrangements to raise foreign nationals’ awareness of their labour rights and obligations.
Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
- Raise law enforcement agencies’ awareness of issues specific to human trafficking, with a stress on victim protection and the non-punishment principle (i.e. the impunity and protection of those who have been forced into criminal activity). Take this principle into account in the preparation of legislation that may touch on human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Coordinators: Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice
Supply chains and conflict minerals [page 20-21]
“Increasing attention is being paid to safety conditions at work (e.g. the use of slave and child labour in mining). Risks of this type are particularly serious in areas plagued by armed conflict, which can be attributed to the absence of state authority here. Raw materials imported from geopolitically unstable regions and flashpoints may be used as a source of funding to reconstruct the country and improve the conditions in which its inhabitants live. On the other hand, various groups may exploit slave or child labour in mining operations or in factories, and the proceeds from sales could then be used to pay for weapons and soldiers. The raw materials they have mined and the products they have made are then sold on the global market, often without the buyers knowing their provenance.
This is a problem that needs to be tackled internationally. One solution lies in certification schemes proving the origin of raw materials. The certification authority guarantees that workers’ rights have not been infringed during mining or production. These certificates are issued by state and international organisations on the one hand, and private issuers on the other. Current legislation allows the public sector to take into account or to demand this certification in the course of procurement, in which case it is only necessary to comply with the conditions of transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination.”
External policy [page 28]
“Current state of play:
- The Czech Republic is party to a number of international human rights treaties, including a set of International Labour Organisation conventions, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”
Pillar II, Scope and content of the obligation to respect human rights [page 30]
“For businesses, there are three dimensions to respect for human rights:
- Do not commit violations of human rights: This applies to a business’s active conduct, the direct impacts of its decisions, and its operations, and may encompass:
- The health- or life-threatening working conditions of its employees.
What human rights? States bear liability for the full range of human rights. Businesses are required to respect those rights that could be affected by their operations, and must do so to the extent of a definite minimum, generally acknowledged fundamental standard deriving from:
- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
- the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; and
- the International Labour Organisation’s core conventions. [the footnote here states “There are eight such “core conventions”, dealing with forced labour (the 1930 and 1957 conventions), freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, equal remuneration, discrimination, minimum worker ages, and the eradication of child labour.”]
These rights are fleshed out in a series of other specific instruments, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
In practice, this concerns matters such as the ban on forced labour, child labour, and life- or health-threatening working conditions, the ban on workplace discrimination, the hindrance of association and collective bargaining, etc.”
Pillar II, Commitment [page 32-33]
“The Government of the Czech Republic recommends that businesses adopt internal commitments in accordance with the recommendations below. …
What should a commitment encompass? …
Protection of whistleblowers: This includes, on the one hand, instructions for employees on how to proceed if they detect unlawful conduct and, on the other, protection from retaliation.”
Representation in court, legal assistance [page 44]
“Even today, a trade union organisation may represent its members and associations may, in the course of their activities, represent victims of discrimination or foreign nationals in labour cases. It is worth considering expanding opportunities for representation by those organisations in the future.
Current state of play:
- If a party to judicial proceedings cannot afford a lawyer, the court may waive the court fees and appoint a representative if this is necessary to protect the party’s interests.
- In August 2017, a law entered into force that ensures that low-income groups can receive free legal assistance.
- The law allows certain legal persons (trade unions and associations) to represent parties to certain types of proceedings. [Section 26 of Act No 99/1963, the Code of Civil Procedure]
- Environmental protection associations may enter into certain types of proceedings. [Section 70 of Act No 114/1992 on the protection of nature and the landscape]
- Associations whose members come from a certain place and whose activities depend on the state of the environment are treated as holders of the right to a favourable environment. Consequently, they have the full rights of a party to environmental proceedings and may even claim those rights in court. [Finding of the Constitutional Court I. ÚS 59/14 of 30 May 2014]
- The bar association may assign a low-income applicant a lawyer for the provision of free legal assistance or legal services.
- Analyse issues surrounding an extension to the set of situations where legal persons may represent parties to proceedings.
Coordinator: Ministry of Justice
Deadline: 31 December 2020
- Evaluate the way the system of free legal assistance for the poor and needy works, especially the cost to the state, the bar association and applicants, the speed at which lawyers are assigned, and how much paperwork is involved. Evaluate the possibility of adding to the group of those who provide legal assistance.
Coordinator: Ministry of Justice
Co-coordinators: Ministry for Human Rights
Deadline: 31 December 2020”
2. The state duty to protect human rights
2.3 Actions taken
Protection of human rights through state regulation and policy [page 12]
“Denmark works to ensure that companies involved in Danish development cooperation respect human rights and act responsibly within the areas of worker’s rights, human rights, environment and anti-corruption within the framework of ILO conventions, UN Global Compact, the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises and work towards implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”
Protection of human rights in the business sphere in Danish legislation [page 12-13]
“General Danish law contributes to fulfilling Denmark’s duty under human rights treaties to which it is a party against human rights abuses by private actors, including businesses. For example, the Danish parliamentary act prohibits differential treatment in the labour market from 1996 protecting against discrimination based on race, gender, skin colour, religion, political opinion, sexual orientation or national, social or ethnic origin. It is also an offense to refuse to serve a person on the same terms as others involved in commercial or non-profit company because of his/hers race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation. The Working Environment Act of 2005 and the Act on the Work of Young Persons from 2005 implement the EU Directive 94/33/EC from 1994 on the protection of young workers, and the 1956 Constitutional Act of Denmark covers freedom of association and assembly.”
Providing effective guidance on how to respect human rights [page 14]
“The revised Global Compact Self-Assessment Tool works as a self-Assessment guide to a CSR due diligence going through a questionnaire covering aspects of human rights, worker’s rights, environment and anti-corruption and including a template for a follow-up action plan.”
Appendix 1, GP 3c
Initiatives taken or planned as a dedicated measure to implement the UNGPs (after the UN ratification of the Guiding Principles) [page 26]
“Companies involved under Danida Business Partnerships are required and guided to undertake a CSR due diligence covering human rights, workers’ rights, environment and anti-corruption and to follow-up with an action plan in order to mitigate adverse impacts of business activities on employees and society at large.”
Appendix 1, GP 4
Status in Denmark (initiatives implemented before the UN ratification of the Guiding Principles) [page 28]
“As part of the approval process, Danida Business Finance analyses potential human rights related risks including local legislation and policies and other CSR issues. Access to finance is based on buyer’s and exporter’s compliance with ILO principles on human and workers’ rights.”
The Finnish NAP makes reference to the ILO core Conventions which include workers’ rights protections. There are also some direct references to workers’ rights.
1 The state obligation to protect human rights
1.3 Activities in the EU [page 18-19]
“As a follow-up measure, the working group suggests that in order to reinforce the human rights aspect in the EU trade policy:
- Finland promotes human rights issues in the framework of bilateral and interregional trade agreements by making use of the work of the monitoring groups for sustainable development of those agreements in matters related to trade and labour rights. …
- A report shall be made on how trade and human rights as well as trade and labour rights have been taken into consideration in the free trade agreements of the EU, the United States and some other countries (such as regulation, monitoring mechanisms, dispute settlement and implementation). Principal responsible party: Ministry for Foreign Affairs, continuous activities, report by mid-2015.”
3 Expectations towards companies and support services
3.5 Support for Finnish and international organisations promoting the subject [page 28]
“In 2014, approximately EUR 17 million were spent to support the projects of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The projects are related to matters such as rights at work, green workplaces for the construction sector, the inclusion of women in the labour market, and decent work.”
I. The State’s Obligation to Protect Human Rights
The International Framework
2. The International Labour Organization (ILO) [page 14]
… France is committed to seeing ILO, a source of international labour laws, establish a shared reference standard based on a common interpretation of conventions. It actively supports the universal ratification process for ILO’s eight fundamental conventions. For several years, it has also underlined the need to reinforce the organization’s supervisory system.
France is one of ILO’s more active members and has a permanent seat on the organization’s Governing Body. It adheres to and promotes the Decent Work Agenda, and fully supports the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (the MNE Declaration). The country has signed a four-year partnership agreement with the International Labour Office, which involves implementing CSR initiatives and contributing to the Better Work Programme.
Actions Underway [page 16]
- France seeks to ensure that the issues of decent work, occupational health and safety and supply chains are addressed by the G20, particularly by working with Germany, whose presidency runs from 2016 to 2017. It also seeks to build on the G7’s commitments to the UN Guiding Principles in 2015, as well as commitments made during the International Labour Conference in June 2016, one of the three themes of which was “decent work in global supply chains”.
The National Framework
10. Reinforcement of Legislation [page 24]
- The Act of 10 July 2014 on unfair social competition was adopted to transpose into national law the European Directive on the posting of workers, which seeks to fight illegal labour practices and fraud in this field. Not only does the act create due diligence obligations, it also provides for joint liability (over and above the requirements in the European Directive) whenever posted workers are used (it establishes the liability of project owners and principals with respect to their subcontractors and co-contractors).
11. The Inter-Ministerial Exemplary Administration Action Plan and the National Action Plan for Sustainable Public Procurement
Public Procurement Policy [page 25]
Under Article 15 of Decree 2016-360 of 25 March 2016, contracting authorities may choose to include general administrative terms and conditions in public contracts. These terms and conditions cover general rather than specific provisions (performance of services, payment, auditing of services, presentation of subcontractors, deadlines, penalties, general conditions, etc.). Article 6 of these terms covers the protection of labour and working conditions, and states that contract holders must respect the working conditions set down in the labour laws and regulations of the country in which workers are hired or, otherwise, ILO’s eight fundamental conventions where these have not been incorporated into the country’s laws and regulations. …
Actions Underway [page 30]
- The AFD supports the implementation of universal social protection and the promotion of initiatives to develop decent work (the creation of decent jobs, skills upgrading, training and the transition towards sustainable employment) in accordance with the AFD’s partnership with the International Labour Office and the priority areas in the ILO-France partnership agreement.
II. Businesses’ Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
2. Training and Information for Businesses [page 39]
… Thanks to the implementation of innovative partnerships between the public, private and nonprofit sectors, regional movements are providing information, raising awareness, offering training and supporting actions to defend and promote human rights. Regional business networks are also committed to human rights, women’s rights and the rights of newcomers, workers, vulnerable populations, etc. These networks, which support multi-stakeholder dialogue and operations, develop tools and initiatives adapted to the needs of businesses (micro, small, medium and large enterprises) using cooperative approaches.
Practical Tools Addressing Specific Issues [page 41]
- ILO has created a business helpdesk providing questions and answers, resources and tools on issues connected with workers’ rights: discrimination, freedom of association, collective bargaining, wages and benefits, occupational safety and health, forced labour, child labour, etc. It also offers free and confidential assistance for company directors and workers.
III. Access to Remedy
1. Judicial Mechanisms – At the International Level
1.1 The Protocol to the ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29) [page 47]
France ratified the Protocol to the 1930 ILO Forced Labour Convention (no.29) on 7 June 2016. France was the fifth country to ratify the Protocol. This Protocol was adopted at the ILO International Labour Conference on 11 June 2014 in Geneva. It supplements the convention, which is one of ILO’s most ratified instruments, by dealing with new forms of forced labour.
The Protocol provides for access to appropriate and effective remedies such as compensation. It also reinforces international cooperation in the fight against forced and compulsory labour. It highlights the important role played by employers and workers in tackling this issue.
This ratification is evidence of France’s commitment to fighting all forms of forced labour and promoting the universal ratification of ILO’s fundamental conventions.
2. Non-Judicial Mechanisms – At the International Level
2.1 The OECD National Contact Point (NCP) [page 54]
The French NCP is very active in promoting responsible business conduct and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Following the Rana Plaza tragedy, the NCP stepped up its activities, especially in the field of due diligence for supply chain risks, human rights and workers’ rights. …
2.4 The European Social Charter [page 57]
In order to promote and guarantee social rights not covered in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe drew up the European Social Charter, which was adopted in Turin in 1961. Significantly, the 1961 Charter covers the right to work, the right to organize, the right to bargain collectively, … , and the right to protection and assistance for migrant workers and their families. …
There is no mention of workers’ rights in the Business and Human Rights Chapter of the Georgian Human Rights NAP.
The German NAP does not make direct reference to ‘workers’ rights’, but includes multiple reference to relevant human rights treaties, ILO instruments, and indirect reference to workers’ right throughout the NAP.
1.1 Basic rules of economic policy [page 14-16]
Protection within states’ own territory – challenges within Germany
The current situation
Germany has ratified major strategic international instruments codifying the protection of human rights, including labour rights, thereby incorporating them into national law. The same applies to the particularly important ILO instruments known as the Core Labour Standards. The instruments that are now binding in Germany include, for example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, most of the conventions of the International Labour Organization and major European agreements such as the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the European Social Charter.
People in vulnerable situations pose a particular challenge in Germany as elsewhere. These include migrants and, in general, employees in precarious work. These groups of people are exposed to a high risk of labour exploitation. The introduction of a general statutory minimum wage in Germany has established an effective instrument against excessively low wages. Since 1 January 2015, a minimum hourly wage of €8.50 has been payable, and its rate is to be adjusted every two years by an independent commission. The minimum wage has increased the earnings of four million people, whose income has risen by an average of 18%.
People who are affected by or at risk of labour exploitation need information about their rights and assistance in enforcing them. In recent years, advice and contact centres have been created in various parts of Germany, some with national and some with regional funding. With support from the Federal Government and the European Social Fund (ESF), for example, the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), through a project called “Faire Mobilität” (fair mobility), provides such advice to employees, especially those from the EU Member States in Central and Eastern Europe. There is no permanent nationwide advisory structure yet for employees from all geographical origins and occupational sectors. In the fight against human trafficking and exploitative employment, Germany is also bound by EU Directive 2011/36/EU and has ratified both the Council of Europe Convention of 2005 on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. To coordinate the diverse activities designed to combat human trafficking, the Federal Government established the Federal Working Group on Trafficking in Human Beings in 1997, whose members include representatives of non-governmental organisations.
The protection of whistleblowers is a highly valuable accompanying measure in the detection of exploitative employment. General provisions in the field of labour law (sections 612a and 626 of the German Civil Code and section 1 of the Protection against Unfair Dismissal Act) and in constitutional law (Articles 2(1), 5 and 20(3) of the Basic Law) provide the legal basis for such protection.
There are also numerous provisions of special legislation which supplement the protection of whistleblowers guaranteed by the aforementioned provisions in particular areas of activity, examples being section 13 of the Money Laundering Act and section 17(2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The Federal Government is currently preparing for the incorporation of numerous international legal instruments into German law. These include the Protocol to the ILO Forced Labour Convention (No 29). The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is planning the examination prior to ratification of the ILO Minimum Wage Fixing Convention (No 131) and Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No 169) as well as of the Optional Protocol of 2008 to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the revised Social Charter.
- “To supplement the existing structures, the Federal Government has shifted the focal point of its efforts towards the fight against human trafficking for the purpose of exploitative employment. A joint federal level-state level working group is currently developing a strategic approach designed to reinforce prevention, establish advisory structures and improve criminal prosecution and the data situation.
- The Federal Government has reached agreement on a bill designed to combat abuses of temporary agency work and work and services contracts. This means that there will be clear rules in future to prevent abuses and the circumvention of employment standards.
- As part of the transposition of European Directive 2016/943/EU on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets), the protection of whistleblowers in German law is being further developed. The purpose of this legislation is to make it clear that the disclosure of trade secrets is lawful if its purpose is to expose professional or other misconduct or illegal activity in order to protect the general public interest.”
2.1 Ensuring the protection of human rights in supply and value chains [page 28]
“Throughout the world, the expectations of consumers, civil society and trade unions in terms of product quality and transparency of production are rising. Their attention is increasingly focused on factors such as environmental protectionand social and employment standards along manufacturers’ supply chains. …
The fact is that every enterprise, through its business activity, has an influence on the living and working conditions of its employees, on its customers and suppliers, on the environment and on the wider economic context.”
Section 1: International Context and Domestic Consultative Process
Other international initiatives [page 11]
“The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Tripartite Declaration on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy5 provides direct guidance to enterprises on social policy and inclusive, responsible and sustainable workplace practices. This global instrument was elaborated and adopted by governments, employers and workers from around the world in 1977 and revised in March 2017. Its principles are addressed to multinational enterprises, governments, and employers’ and workers’ organisations and cover areas such as employment, training, conditions of work and life, and industrial relations as well as general policies.”
Section 2: Current legislative and Regulatory Framework
Anti-Corruption [page 13]
“The most recent peer review of Ireland’s implementation of the OECD anti-Bribery Convention made a number of specific recommendations around awareness raising and reporting. Since that report, the Government has introduced the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 which provides a robust statutory framework within which workers can raise concerns regarding potential wrongdoing in the workplace. Ireland will continue to follow up the recommendations of the report to ensure that we fulfil our Convention commitments.”
Workers’ Rights [page 13]
“Ireland is strongly committed to the protection and promotion of both domestic and migrant workers’ rights through national and international legislation, with a robust body of employment rights legislation which provides employees with a means for redress in cases where their employment rights have been breached. In 2017, Ireland has taken up, for the first time, a Titulaire seat on the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). During its term, Ireland will maintain and promote its commitment to human rights and will work to enhance the profile of business and human rights in the framework of the ILO.”
Annex 1 – List of additional and ongoing actions to be carried out across Government
Development Cooperation [page 21]
“20. Promote the Inclusive Economic Growth policy priority set out in “One World, One Future: Ireland’s Policy for International Development”, by encouraging and supporting partner governments to ensure that business and economic regulation and legislation implements national and international commitments to human rights such as those relating to gender equality – in particular promoting women’s access to formal employment, decent work, and the rights of marginalised groups.”
II. Background and Context
C. National Priorities [page 7]:
Business impact on human rights may touch multiple subjects (such as workers, … ) in several ways (discrimination, exploitation, pollution, etc.) and within different contexts of economic activities (agriculture, textile, finance, oil and gas and so on) …
IV. Government Responses: Current activities and future commitments
B. Operational Principles
General State Regulatory and Policy Functions
GP 3 (a)
Irregular work and agricultural sector [page 14]
The ‘National Action Plan Against Trafficking in and Serious Exploitation of Human Beings’ provides for preventive measures in countries of origin where exploitation and trafficking of migrants in irregular work mostly occurred. Within this framework, a 2014 Decree has established the “Rete del Lavoro Agricolo di Qualità”: a network aimed at countering irregular work in agriculture by connecting companies compliant with specific requirements under labour, social security and fiscal law (such as the application of local and national agricultural sector work agreements). Companies compliant with the requirements under labour, social security and fiscal law may apply for joining the network, and this is rewarded with special incentives. Companies listed in the network receive special benefits, such as being included in a “white list”. This list is taken in consideration by the government enforcement agencies, which prioritize their controls over companies not belonging to the network (the rule does not apply if workers or trade unions representatives ask for intervention or in case of complaints to judicial authority or other administrative authorities). Such reward mechanisms from Public Administration incentivize promising and best practices in the field of countering irregular work in the agricultural sector.
In line with this approach, the Law n. 199 of 29.10.2016 “Disposizioni in materia di contrasto ai fenomeni del lavoro nero, dello sfruttamento del lavoro in agricoltura e di riallineamento retributivo nel settore agricolo” (provisions on countering undeclared labour, labour exploitation in agriculture and wages rebalance in agricultural sector), provides for measures aimed at improving the criminal prosecution of the phenomenon (through the crimes of illicit intermediation and work exploitation) with particular regard to illicit capital accumulation by exploiters and the provision of confiscation of the goods and properties acquired through the exploitation activity. The Law provides for victims’ compensation and the activation of a plan for the treatment of seasonal workers (in particular foreign ones) with the direct involvement and control of Regions on their conditions …
… In line with the goal of countering exploitation in the agricultural sector, the Centre of Politics and Bio economy of CREA (former INEA) within the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, and within the National Operational Project “Sicurezza per lo Sviluppo” (Safety for Development), has set up an Immigrants database with the aim of improving monitoring and control activities especially with regard to immigrants and workers recruited through racket and criminality. The tool collects data geographically (33 specific agricultural areas in about 270 municipalities for a total number of 26 productive divisions employing immigrant workers) and by monitoring seasonal work demands, consequently identifies the manpower needed over the year.
Planned measures [page 15]
- Extend the scope and mandate of the “Rete Lavoro Agricolo di Qualità” to the food mass distribution companies and intermediaries with the aim of promoting the social responsibility of agro-food industry for workers’ exploitation;
- Promote the realization of interventions on immigrants’ rights protection in line with the project “villaggio solidale” (as developed in Puglia Region and coordinated by Coldiretti and Focsiv) that has led to the conclusion of regular employment contracts between agriculture industries and immigrants workers in the harvest seasons;
The State-Business Nexus
GP 4-6 [page 21]
… Italy has adopted the Legislative decree 19 April 2016, n.50, implementing the EU Directives, introducing a framework of a “socially responsible public procurement policy” and reputational requirements in public procurement awarding. With regard to companies directly or indirectly owned by the State, and following a joint effort with the Minister of Economy and Finance, in 2015 A.N.AC. issued guidelines on: … respect of the rights of workers involved…
The Lithuanian NAP makes no explicit reference to worker’s rights.
Part I – Rational Framework for the development, adoption and implementation of the NAP
1. International Context
1.3. European Council (pg. 14)
… On the basis of the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted Recommendation CM / Rec (2016) on human rights and businesses. This instrument offers more targeted recommendations to help Member States prevent and correct human rights abuses by businesses and focuses on measures to encourage business to respect human rights, particularly vulnerable groups … including workers…
1.4. International Labour Organization (ILO) (pg. 14)
On 17 March 2017, the ILO revised the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. This text provides guidance to businesses on how to contribute to the achievement of decent work for all. The principles contained in the Declaration are recommended for the attention of governments, employers ‘and workers’ organizations in host and hosting countries and multinational enterprises, and make direct reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the implementation of the Terms of Reference: “Protect, Respect and Remedy”.
The Dutch NAP makes no explicit reference to workers’ rights, although it highlights ILO labour standards.
3.1 An active role for the government
Level playing field [page 15]
“The Netherlands is also committed to universal ratification of the ILO’s fundamental labour standards: the ban on child labour and forced labour, equality of opportunity and treatment, and freedom of association.”
2. The State duty to protect human rights
2.3 State ownership and practice for supporting the business sector
Responsible management [page 23]:
However, it should be emphasized that Norges Bank’s work on responsible management is not confined to these areas. In its annual report on responsible management for 2014 the bank has elaborated on how it deals with a number of other issues and areas as well, including social conditions such as human rights and workers’ rights.
2.8 Free-trade agreements and investment contracts
Measures [page 27]:
sSeek to ensure that provisions on respect for human rights, including fundamental workers’ rights, and the environment are included in bilateral free trade and investment agreements.
Pillar I: The state’s duty to protect human rights
5. Planned changes in national legislation
Amendment to the Trade Union Act section [page 25]:
The Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy has drafted a bill amending the Trade Union Act that provides for extending the right of workers to organize onto individuals performing paid work but not mentioned in the provisions of the Act (in particular contractors or self-employed individuals), who have all the characteristics of workers within the meaning of the Constitution. The proposed changes are a consequence of the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal of 2 June 2015, ref. Act K 1/13, which ruled that Article 2(1) of the Trade Union Act, in so far as it restricts the freedom of associating in and joining trade unions by individuals pursuing paid work not referred to in that provision, violates Article 59(1) in conjunction with Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. It is planned to adapt the provisions of the current trade union law to new realities after the extension of workers’ right to organize and the need to ensure that all trade unionists, irrespective of the nature of their legal relationship with their employer, are 26 able to freely exercise the right to organize in trade unions. The bill is currently in legislation. The draft law has been reviewed by social partners, e.g., as part of the proceedings of the Social Dialogue Council.
Right of female workers to protection [page 15]:
In view of the right of employed women to special protection under Article 8 of the European Social Charter, as well as the right of mothers to special protection during the period before and after childbirth under Article 10 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and under Article 177 LC, the employment relationship with a female employee during her pregnancy or while on maternity leave is subject to particular protection. During this time, an employer may not terminate an employment contract with or without notice unless there are reasons justifying termination without notice through the fault of the employee and an enterprise trade union representing the employee has consented to the termination of the employment contract.
During pregnancy or maternity leave, it is possible to terminate an employment contract solely in the event of the declaration of bankruptcy or the liquidation of the employer. In such cases, however, the employer is obliged to agree with the enterprise trade union representing the female employee on the date of the termination of their employment contract. If it is not possible to ensure other employment within that period of time, the female employee is entitled to the benefits specified in separate provisions on cash benefits from social security in the event of sickness or maternity.
The special protection of the employment relationship does not apply to female employees on a trial period not exceeding one month or to employees hired under an employment contract for a definite period of time concluded to replace an employee during a justified absence from work. These regulations also apply accordingly in the case of employees taking parental leave.
The Labour Code also contains a number of provisions governing specific rights of employees related to parenting, including the provisions on maternity, parental, paternity, and child-care leave, as well as provisions to facilitate the fulfilment of parental responsibilities in relation to child care and education, including regulations that make it possible to combine leave with part-time work or regulations on working time and the use of exemptions from work or breaks from work.
The particular protection of employment relationships during pregnancy and maternity leave is subject to modifications resulting from the provisions of the Act of 13 March 2003 on special rules regarding the termination of an employment relationship for reasons not related to employees (Journal of Laws of 2016, Item 1474). This law, which applies to employers with at least 20 employees, allows for termination of current employment and working conditions with notice, while still prohibiting termination, both in the case of collective redundancies and individual termination of an employment relationship during pregnancy and maternity leave. These regulations also apply accordingly in the case of employees taking parental leave.
According to the Act on the Implementation of Certain Regulations of the European Union Regarding Equal Treatment, in the case of a violation of the principle of equal treatment, laid down in that law, against an individual, including in connection with pregnancy, maternity leave, leave on terms of maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, or child-care leave, the person is entitled to compensation.
Pillar II: The corporate responsibility to respect human rights
Implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals [page 29]:
The SDGs also have a clear business justification with real opportunities to take concrete action on both investments (including in important sectors, such as infrastructure, energy, and industrial production) and responsible business conduct, such as appropriate labour standards, respect for workers’ rights, rational use of resources, and clean and environmentally friendly technologies and production processes.
Pillar III: Access to remedies
Tasks of the National Labour Inspectorate in the field of combating discrimination in access to employment and in relation to the provision of services by employment agencies [pages 48,49]:
By verifying compliance with the law in relation to temporary workers, labour inspectors verify that there is no violation of the prohibition on unequal treatment of temporary workers—with respect to working conditions and other conditions of employment—as compared to workers employed by the employer in the same or a similar position.
6. Planned actions to provide access to remedies [page 50]:
There have been instances of labour-law violations identified among entities conducting the activities of a temporary employment agency. This phenomenon is not widespread, but given its social dimension, it is necessary to monitor it continuously and take actions to improve the standards of temporary work and the protection of temporary workers. (…)There are two mechanisms for dealing with complaints about abusive practices in employment agencies. Any person who becomes aware of non-compliance by an employment agency with the provisions of the Act on Promotion of Employment and Labour Market Institutions, including abuse and fraudulent practices on the part of such an entity, may file a complaint to the marshal of the voivodship competent for the seat of the employment agency or the National Labour Inspectorate. In the case of temporary employment agencies, the complaint may also concern non-compliance with the provisions of the Act on the Employment of Temporary Workers and other labour-law provisions. Employees’ organisations (i.e., trade unions) and employers’ organisations are also entitled to lodge such complaints.
International non-binding mechanisms and international legal framework in force in Poland in relation to business and human rights, the NAP [page 55]:
ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy of 1977 (last change in 2006): refers to the obligation of enterprises to respect human rights and workers’ rights in many respects, taking into account the existing ILO acquis.
C. Current Status
1. Domestic Status [page 3]
- Increased discussion of corporate social responsibility as a result of human rights issues such as low wages, … , poor working environment, … in the management process of multinational corporations.
- Revision of 「Procurement Business Act」 and addition of an article promoting corporate social responsibility on January 2016
* Article 3-2 (Encouraging Social Responsibility)
The administrator of the Public Procurement Service may reflect social and environmental values such as … human rights, labor, employment, … in the procurement process to encourage corporate social responsibility.
D. Tasks for the Third NAP
Institutionalization of Human Rights Management
2. Establish and implement measures for corporate sustainability management [page 5]
- Reflect ‘respecting human rights·prohibition on discrimination’ ‘work-life balance’ on the criteria of factual survey on corporate sustainability management and reward assessment.
7. Prevent human rights violations to local workers in Korean companies overseas [page 6]
- Share major issues and establish a cooperation system with related domestic and foreign institutions.
- Open local briefing session on labor management for Korean companies oversea and domestic briefing session for companies scheduled to go abroad.
- Publish and provide data of labor management country-by-country.
Guiding Principle 1
“Spain is party to all of the main treaties on human rights and, specifically, to the following:
- the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;
- the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
- the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three Optional Protocols;
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”
“Spain has also ratified the eight fundamental Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO):
- Forced Labour Convention (No 29)
- Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Conventions (No 87)
- Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (No 98)
- Equal Remuneration Convention (No 100)
- Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No 105)
- Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (No 111)
- Minimun age Convention (No 138)
- Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention. (No 182)”
Guiding Principle 2
“Likewise, an awareness-raising strategy will be carried out on how to avoid discriminatory practices in public and private companies (by distinction, exclusion or preference) because of gender, age, ethnic origin, race, religion, disability, political affiliation or union, sexual orientation, nationality, marital status, socioeconomic origin or any other personal distinction”.
Guiding Principle 3
“The implementation will be promoted by business and trade unions, general or sectorial, including representative organizations of social economy entities; as well as other institutions such as chambers of commerce, chambers abroad, universities, business schools, etc. of actions that should promote online training and advice and resolution of queries, coordinated with those carried out in the application of the Spanish Strategy of Corporate Social Responsibility.”
Guiding Principle 10
“Spain will promote greater involvement of the International Labor Organization in the application of the Guiding Principles.”
1 The State duty to protect human rights [page 10-11]
Swedish legislation to protect human rights
“Through other legislation, such as civil law legislation on rights at work and on discrimination, as well as criminal law legislation, the State seeks to ensure that an individual’s human rights are also respected by third parties, including business enterprises.
A typical feature of the Swedish labour market and the Swedish model is that the relationship between employer and employee is largely governed by collective agreements. These agreements often contain regulations that supplement and replace the procedures established by law. The most important act in the area of individual labour law is the Employment Protection Act (1982:80), which regulates how employment contracts may be entered into and terminated. This Act includes provisions stating that indefinite-term contracts should be the general rule but that fixed-term contracts can be mutually agreed in some cases. The Act also states that notice of termination of an indefinite-term employment contract must be based on objective grounds.
In the area of collective labour law, the Employment (Co-determination in the Workplace) Act (1976:580) is the main act. This Act regulates, for example, the right of employee organisations to participate in negotiations ahead of certain decisions by an employer, for example regarding significant operational changes. The Trade Union Representatives (Status at the Workplace) Act (1974:358) is also part of collective labour law. This Act contains regulations on the status of trade union representatives and the right to participate in trade union activities at individual workplaces.
The purpose of the Discrimination Act (2008:567) is to combat discrimination and in other ways promote equal rights and opportunities regardless of sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, impairment, sexual orientation or age. The Act applies to employment in a broad sense, educational activities, labour market policy activities and employment services not under public contract, starting or running a business, supply of goods, services and housing, organisation of a public gathering or event, and health and medical care and social services.
Disputes concerning the relationship between employer and employee are often resolved in the Labour Court, which is a specialised court for examining labour law disputes. The Labour Disputes (Judicial Procedure) Act (1974:371) contains certain special regulations on labour law disputes.”
Criminal law provisions to protect human rights
- “Protection of liberty and peace, through criminal liability for human trafficking, including for the purpose of exploiting a person’s labour …”
2 The corporate responsibility to respect human rights [page 13]
“For a company’s employees, human rights in the workplace are particularly important. The right to participate in collective bargaining and the right to form or join free trade unions are examples of such rights. Special measures should be taken to identify and prevent anti-union policies or actions. This applies both in Sweden and abroad. In some countries it may be difficult for employees to assert their human rights in the workplace.
The Government encourages companies to conduct a dialogue on these issues with stakeholders, trade unions and civil society organisations to identify problems and work constructively to find common solutions. It is particularly important to ensure that a dialogue is conducted with free trade unions. …
Companies should also help to defend and strengthen women’s rights, including through access to the labour market and by combating discrimination in all its forms. …”
Annex: Measures taken [page 21]
Regulations and legislation
- “The Inquiry on protection of workers who blow the whistle on various unsatisfactory conditions, irregularities or offences submitted its report on 20 May 2014 (Swedish Government Official Reports 2014:31). The Inquiry proposes a new labour law act strengthening the protection provided to whistleblowers. Under the act, workers who have suffered reprisals for whistleblowing will be entitled to damages. The Inquiry’s proposals have been circulated for comment.
- With a view to improving the protection provided to workers, amendments have been proposed to the Work Environment Act and the Working Hours Act. Under these amendments, financial penalties would largely replace penal sanctions to create a more effective sanctions system.
4. Position of the Federal Council on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
4.3 The position and expectations of the Federal Council [page 8]:
Depending on the circumstances, business enterprises must also observe additional standards concerning particularly vulnerable population groups (cf. OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Guideline 40). These include, for example, the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the international conventions protecting women, minorities, children, people with disabilities and migrant workers and members of their families.
The UK 2013 NAP states in the section on The existing UK legal and policy framework that [page 8]:
“Legislation has also been passed to plug specific gaps in the protection of workers under the law such as the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004, which created an agency to prevent the exploitation of workers in agricultural work, shellfish-gathering and related processing or packaging.”
The UK 2016 Updated NAP refers to the workers’ rights in the Introduction [page 3]:
“Since the publication of the UNGPs, in 2011, and the UK’s National Action Plan in 2013, there have been a number of developments at the international level. In particular: (…) protect labour rights, promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment (SDG 8.8).”
The UK 2016 Updated NAP states in the section The State’s Duty to Protect Human Rights that [page 7]:
“Legislation has also been passed to plug specific gaps in the protection of workers under the law such as the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004, which created an agency to prevent the exploitation of workers in agricultural work, shellfish-gathering and related processing or packaging.”
The UK 2016 Updated NAP refers to migrant workers’ rights also in Government Commitments section [page 11]:
“The Government will do the following to reinforce its implementation of its commitments under Pillar 1 of the UNGPs: (…) Consider new project activity on raising awareness and tackling the negative impacts of business activity, including on the human rights of groups like indigenous peoples, women, national or ethnic minorities, religious and linguistic minorities, children, persons with disabilities, and migrant workers and their families, by tasking our diplomatic missions in countries where these are concerns.”
The UK 2016 Updated NAP includes a Case study of Rana Plaza which makes reference to workers’ rights [page 12]:
”DFID Bangladesh funding has also worked to try and ensure justice for garment workers, supporting a number of NGOs to file public interest litigation to protect workers’ rights, and increase awareness of worker rights. To support this, in 2015 the British High Commission began work with Global Rights Compliance and Action Aid Bangladesh to increase state, corporate, trade associations and trade union understanding and uptake of the UN Guiding Principles, increase accountability and reduce human rights violations in the garment, leather and tannery sectors.”
Outcome 1.1: Promoting RBC Globally
Ongoing Commitments and Initiatives [page 8-9]
“International Labor Organization: The U.S. government will continue to engage with representatives of employers and workers, and with other governments, to address key issues including but not limited to: employment, protection of worker rights, and social protection. To that end, the U.S. government played an active role in the June 2016 International Labor Conference discussion on the opportunities and challenges in advancing decent work in global supply chains.” – Implementing Department or Agency: DOL, State
“Executive Orders and Regulations that Set Global Standards: DOL will continue to vigorously enforce new and existing protections for job applicants and workers of federal contractors, including those who are based outside of the United States. See Annex II for policies promoted by E.O.s that impact the responsible conduct of foreign companies that do business with the U.S. government.” – Implementing Department or Agency: DOL, State
Outcome 2.1: Enhance the Value of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives on RBC
New Actions [page 14-15]
“Promoting Worker Voice throughout Global Supply Chains: DOL, State, and USAID will promote worker voice and empowerment throughout global supply chains and will commit to: (1) building innovative tools to empower workers to directly report to relevant Departments concerns in federal supply chains; and (2) leverage public-private partnerships, stakeholder engagement, and labor diplomacy to promote worker empowerment throughout global supply chains. This effort will enhance the visibility of workers’ perspectives and of their representative organizations, and promote the ability of workers to organize. Various U.S. government agencies have funded and/or participated in initiatives to support stronger worker voice, such as through the Partnership for Freedom and the Supply Unchained initiatives.” – Implementing Department or Agency: DOL, State, USAID
“ILO-International Finance Corporation (IFC) Better Work Program: More than 60 American apparel brands are part of the Better Work program, implemented by the ILO in partnership with the IFC. DOL has funded Better Work programs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, Jordan, Lesotho, Nicaragua, and Vietnam. The Better Work program is being implemented in 1,343 export apparel factories, supporting better labor conditions for approximately 1,750,000 workers worldwide.” – Implementing Department or Agency: DOL
Outcome 3.1: U.S. Government Reports
Ongoing Commitments and Initiatives [page 18]
“Human Rights Reports: State will continue to publish its annual Human Rights Reports, which cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international agreements.” – Implementing Department or Agency: State