Summary of Results
Recruitment was among the lowest scoring themes of the benchmark. The average company had a policy in place to prohibit worker-paid recruitment fees, but little else to show in practice. This is concerning given the known forced labor risks associated with recruitment practices in the ICT sector.
Eight out of 40 companies outline their approach to recruitment in their supply chains– they have a policy that requires direct employment in its supply chains, require employment and recruitment agencies in its supply chains to uphold workers' fundamental rights and freedoms, and/or disclose information on the recruitment agencies used by suppliers. This includes two companies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP, that have policies which require direct employment in their supply chains thereby eliminating the risks of forced labor associated with employment agencies. Both companies also require suppliers to have contracts in place with recruitment agencies which include standards on forced labor. However, this is not common practice, with only eight out of 40 companies having policies in place that require employment or recruitment agencies to uphold standards on forced labor.
Companies did not disclose information on the recruitment agencies used by their suppliers. However, four companies disclose having processes in place to identify the name or locations of labor agencies in their supply chains, or reported the countries in which they are based.
In relation to recruitment fees, Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) members have particularly strong policies in place due to their use of the RBA Supplier Code of Conduct. The most recent versions of the Code state that workers shall not be required to pay recruitment fees, and that any fees found to have been paid must be repaid to workers. Twenty-four out of 40 companies have a policy in place that prohibits recruitment fees being charged to suppliers' workers. Of companies that were scored in both benchmarks, in 2016 eight companies had such a policy in place, which increased to 12 in 2018. Hitachi, for example, having previously "not yet developed an approach" on the issue of recruitment fees has now joined the RBA and adopted the RBA Code as its Supplier Code. Samsung has since published its migrant worker policy, which prohibits recruitment fees. Moreover, while in 2016 only two companies disclosed that they reimbursed recruitment fees (Apple and Cisco), in 2018, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Samsung, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company also disclosed evidence that recruitment fees, where found, had been reimbursed to workers. This is tangible evidence of an impact on workers' lives. It is therefore encouraging that the number of companies taking action in this area is increasing; however, this represents only five out of 40 companies in the benchmark, showing a lack of action in the sector as a whole.
A quarter of companies disclose some information related to the monitoring of recruitment agencies. Most require suppliers to audit labor agencies, and a few do so directly. Some companies also outline approaches to ethical recruitment such as training labor agencies on preventing the risk of forced labor. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, for example, partnered with other ICT companies to conduct training for suppliers and labor agents based in Southeast Asia on preventing the risks of modern slavery in the recruitment of foreign migrant workers. Additionally, a few companies disclose membership of the Steering Committee of the Responsible Labor Initiative. The Responsible Labor Initiative is a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on ensuring the rights of workers vulnerable to forced labor in supply chains are protected.
Twenty-six out of 40 companies have policies in place that prohibit the withholding of suppliers' workers' identification documents. Although the majority of companies have relevant policies in place for protecting migrant workers in their supply chains, only five companies disclose some evidence of how they work with suppliers to ensure that migrant workers' rights are respected. This included, for example, using training opportunities with suppliers and labor agents to hear directly from suppliers on challenges they are facing related to forced labor, and adjusting their own capacity-building efforts accordingly.