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A Toolkit for Responsible Businesses
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Addressing Trafficking in Persons in the Code

Increasingly, in addition to including forced labor standards in their codes, companies are including a specific prohibition of trafficking in persons.  Forced labor and trafficking are closely related and in some instances overlapping phenomena.

In 2006, a multi-stakeholder group of company chief executives, international organizations, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) developed the Athens Ethical Principles, a set of seven anti-trafficking principles to which companies can voluntarily commit.  In December 2010, these Principles were further elaborated into the Luxor Implementation Guidelines.  This guidance can assist companies to incorporate anti-trafficking provisions into their codes.

Often, the workers who are most vulnerable to forced labor/trafficking are migrant and temporary workers, who make up a significant proportion of the workforce in certain industries and parts of the world.  In some cases, employers obtain migrant and temporary labor through labor brokerage or recruitment services.  Workers are highly vulnerable to a wide range of abuses in these situations.  Some recruiters confiscate workers’ identity documents as a means to entrap them, and/or deceive workers about the nature of the work they will be doing, the working conditions, the housing and living arrangements, and other aspects of their employment.  In some cases, workers are made to pay fees to recruiters, brokers and other actors along the migration chain–fees which may be impossible to pay back and lead to debt bondage.  As enshrined in ILO Convention 181, all costs of recruiting labor should be borne by the employer—workers should never pay any cost to obtain a job.

If you know or suspect that there is migrant labor in your supply chain, it is important to include relevant standards in your code of conduct.  One resource that companies can draw from is Verité's Fair Hiring Toolkit (2011), which includes sample code of conduct provisions for companies at risk for forced labor and trafficking.  Gap Inc.’s  Code of Vendor Conduct Standards for Treatment of Foreign Contract Workers is an example of a code containing specific provisions on migrant worker issues.

Another initiative focused on vulnerable migrant workers is the Dhaka Principles project, led by the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB).  In consultation with a range of stakeholders, the IHRB has developed ten core principles aimed at ensuring “migration with dignity.”  These principles are currently under public and multi-stakeholder review.  

In some cases, migrant workers are provided accommodations by their employers as part of the terms of employment.  For employers, this is a means to recruit and keep valuable employees, and for migrant workers who have traveled far from home, this arrangement can provide needed housing.  However, such housing must be safe, clean and appropriate to the worker population.  Workers must always have freedom of movement, and the right to choose other housing if they wish.  According to the ILO, if workers are living in “degrading living conditions” in employer-provided housing, and are also subject to some form of penalty or threat preventing them from leaving their jobs, this would amount to a forced labor situation. Gap Inc. and other companies include housing standards in their codes.