By Brian Collett — The telltale signs of slave labour are flagged up in a free guide just released by the Ethical Trading Initiative, the London-based alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes workers’ rights worldwide.
The organisation has produced two guides, intended to help businesses to deal with the risk of child labour and modern slavery in their supply chains and to improve their understanding of these unethical practices and their own legal responsibilities.
The first manual sets out ways of reducing child labour risks.
Companies are advised how to assess the child labour risks, appreciate the influence they can have and the required decision-making and actions, mitigate the risks and act where necessary, and monitor the implementation of their policies to protect children from exploitation.
The second manual advises companies when negotiating with suppliers to impose child employment rules that match the highest international standards.
The warning signs to watch for among suppliers include retention of identity papers, withholding wages, unacceptable living and working conditions and restrictions on movement.
Companies are told that a supplier may not be practising slavery if only one of the signs is seen. Several of the signs, however, usually do indicate slavery.
Cindy Berman, the organisation’s head of knowledge and learning, said: “Not only is modern slavery a predominantly business issue, but companies recognise it as such. Well over three quarters believe that there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring in their supply chains.
“Understanding and addressing child labour can be a minefield for companies.
“Universally agreed and legally binding rights of the child are enshrined by the UN. Yet, while international standards are clear, the reality in countries is too often different.”
At the same time businesses have to bear in mind that the age at which a child may start full-time work can be 14, or even 13 for part-time work, depending on the individual country’s laws.