BLOG: Top Responsible Recruitment Themes in the Coming Year

As our new RRT Sponsorship year kicks off, I’ve been reflecting on what look to be some of the key responsible recruitment themes in the coming year. Here’s my top five:

  1. Covid-19, responsible recruitment and vaccinations
  2. Labour supply chain due diligence and liability
  3. Changing migration patterns and the responsible recruitment of local workers
  4. Increasing models of temporary/agency working and the status of informal workers
  5. Recruitment fee remediation standards

1. Covid-19, responsible recruitment and vaccinations

The impact of Covid-19 on responsible recruitment is of course a theme that will be with us for some time. In May last year, we produced our Practical Guide to Responsible Recruitment During Covid-19, and many of the practical steps still apply. Later in the year, we co-authored a blog with the Consumer Goods Forum on the importance of responsible recruitment to building resilient supply chains – recognising that embedding a responsible recruitment strategy can help retailers, brands and their supply bases become more resilient, ethical and responsive to changing circumstances.

Key to building back better and economic recovery is the global vaccination effort and this will be a key theme within responsible recruitment for the coming year:

  • Firstly, as we start to see companies and countries exploring no-jab, no-job vaccination policies we’ll be contemplating the implications for responsible recruitment balancing the health and safety of existing workers alongside any implications for discrimination or marginalisation.
  • On a global stage, vaccine inequality between countries will undoubtedly have an impact, including on labour migration. According to Antonio Guterres (UN Secretary General) 10 countries have administered more than 75% of all Covid vaccines, whilst 130 countries have not received a single dose. Extreme poverty is rising for the first time in decades, and we know that poverty is one of the key underlying factors that can drive vulnerability to debt bondage, labour trafficking and unethical recruitment practices.

We will continue to monitor these trends and share best practice with our subscribers.

2. Labour supply chain due diligence and liability

Our second theme focuses on the growing importance of labour supply chain due diligence, particularly in the context of liability for the actions of business partners in the supply chain.

The US has had legislation in place since 2016 to prohibit imports of products associated with forced labour. Withhold release orders are currently in place on products from twelve countries, including on a number of Malaysian glove manufacturers associated with excessive recruitment fee charging to migrant workers. One company is expected to pay $32 million in remediation payments to workers as part of its actions to satisfy US Customs and Border Protection. The EU is now exploring similar legislation, whilst the UK recently announced measures specifically associated with Xinjiang province in China, which could set a precedent for similar legislation to be introduced.

In relation to recruiters specifically, California state recently updated legislation on the use of foreign labour contractors to ensure it applies to all temporary migrant workers. The legislation requires:

  1. The registration of FLCs 
  2. The use of only registered FLCs by California employers 
  3. Full and honest disclosure of working terms and conditions during the recruiting process, including no fees, and 
  4. Penalties for failure to comply with these requirements 

Finally, we are now seeing workers starting to bring civil claims against actors further up the supply chain citing lack of due diligence rather than direct complicity in the exploitation, such as victims of child slavery in Ivory Coast in the supply chains of global confectionary companies, and victims of modern slavery in the waste sector in the UK.

RRT’s guidance and training on labour supply chain due diligence helps businesses understand the practical steps they can take to map their labour supply chain, carry out labour supply chain due diligence and work strategically with labour supply chain business partners.  

3. Changing migration patterns and the responsible recruitment of local workers

In many countries, borders are closed due to Covid, and may not open up fully until vaccination programmes are advanced in countries around the world.

Between 11 March 2020 […] and 1 February 2021, the total number of movement restrictions implemented around the world has increased to nearly 107,000”.

Migration Data Portal

Conversely, unemployment levels are increasing within countries and businesses are shifting their attention to local workers. One of the RRT standards looks at the responsible recruitment of local workers, and businesses will need to assess their policies and procedures against these standards in this context of shifting labour markets.

We’re also seeing civil society step up calls to give undocumented workers and asylum seekers the right to work, who may present a ready pool of workers and who may be vulnerable to entering informal and precarious work without the legal right to work.

4. Increasing models of temporary/agency working and the status of informal workers

With commercial uncertainty, we’re seeing a shift to greater use of temporary/agency working. This can increase risk, but with effective due diligence and monitoring labour users can identify ethical and professional labour providers to provide a responsibly recruited contingent workforce.  

In the UK, clarity on the status of workers as employees, workers or self-employed has been developing the last couple of years; with updates to IR35 legislation and more recently, with the landmark case on gig workers in the UK Supreme Court. Similarly, we’re hearing from partners in other parts of the world, that there is a renewed focus on the status of casual workers and the need to formalise. Businesses need to understand if workers on informal/casual contracts are in their operations and supply chains and how their status can be formalised to afford greater protections. RRT guidance on employment status and regular work supports businesses to understand their responsibilities in this regard.

5. Recruitment fee remediation

There is now broad consensus that worker-paid recruitment fees are exploitative and increasing momentum amongst business and civil society to take action.

In 2017, we developed our practical guide to ‘Eliminating Recruitment and Employment Fees Charged to Workers’, which has been updated annually to align to latest developments and best practice. The Guide helps to break down the key actions for business in terms of:

  • Making a commitment to eliminating worker-paid recruitment fees and related costs
  • Ensuring effective due diligence to mitigate the risk of fee-charging and,
  • Providing remedy where it is discovered.

We haven’t shied away from the thorny questions – particularly on recruitment fee remediation, and who’s responsible for repaying. We were therefore pleased to be invited as one of the stakeholders consulted on the leading work Impactt has been doing to develop Standards for Remediation of Recruitment Fees and Related Costs.

Our next steps will be to:

  • Incorporate Impactt’s Repayment Standards into the next iteration of our practical guide and our interactive online training on Eliminating Worker-Paid Recruitment Fees
  • Continue to work closely with industry groups on recruitment fees and raise the latest standards in relevant fora
  • We are actively engaged on responsible recruitment in the US, and moving into Mexico and will bring these emerging standards into the work we are doing in that region. 

This blog was authored by Hannah Newcomb, Managing Director of The Responsible Recruitment Toolkit. Find out more about how RRT can support your business by watching our new 3-min video at: