What is Fair Labour and How Does it Differ from Ethical Recruitment?

At the FLA we often refer to both “fair labour” and “ethical recruitment”. While the concepts are sometimes considered interchangeable, there are some key differences.


What is ethical recruitment?

Ethical recruitment refers to the fair and transparent process of hiring workers. This includes; recruit sourcing, interviews, skills testing and training, negotiation of contracts, and the arrangement of logistics and related to travel and visas.


In an ethical recruitment model, all costs associated with recruitment are covered by the hiring company. If companies fail to pay for recruitment, they are all but guaranteeing worker exploitation and human rights abuses in their supply chain. Moreover, passing on such costs to recruits is usually illegal and could expose the company to legal jeopardy.


An ethical recruiter will ensure that they, not a local ‘sub agent’ is on hand for the ‘first handshake’. This means that they can protect the recruit from the’ village gate to the job site’. This is vital. If a corrupt agent or sub agent is the first handshake, they will demand a bribe that ensures subsequent silence from the recruit and renders it much more difficult to retrospectively fix the debt bondage into which the recruit has fallen.


The ethical recruiter will then ensure that the recruit is protected all the way through the process of obtaining the necessary permits to travel and other pre-departure processes. Often, they will seek to remain involved in the welfare of the recruit throughout the life-cycle of their employment.


What is fair labour?

Fair Labour refers to the overall recruitment and management of workers throughout the life cycle of their job. This can include ensuring that working and living conditions are acceptable, wages are paid correctly and on time, identity documents are not retained by employers, disputes are quickly resolved and contracts are not violated.


Fair labour is directly related to ethical recruitment because workers in debt bondage are less able to complain about poor working conditions. Using their debt as leverage against them, managers or agents can impose abusive practices on workers, such as significant overtime, refusing breaks, or even wage theft. Knowing that making a complaint could so could result in the loss of their job and the inability to pay off their debt bond, workers can become trapped in a cycle of poor working conditions.


While ethical recruitment and fair labour can mean two different things, they are deeply connected to one another.


The Fair Labour Alliance brings together thought leaders and business leaders to implement effective strategies designed to reduce exploitation in recruitment and labour supply chains.

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