The REC took part in the latest meeting between national governments, business organisations and trade unions on Fair Recruitment hosted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva. Three days of intensive discussion allowed us to position our industry at the forefront of global-level debates on compliance, supply chain management and good recruitment practice which have been identified as key priority areas for the ILO and the recently re-branded World Employment Confederation in the run-up to the International Labour Conference next June.
What is the backstory?
The ILO is part of the United Nations and brings together representatives of 187 member states to set labour standards and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues. The Fair Recruitment initiative was launched in 2014 to address criminal labour intermediaries, particularly those that prey on low-skilled and migrant workers. According to the ILO there are 232 million international migrants working across the globe and reported abuses include deception about the nature and conditions of work, retention of passports and illegal wage deductions.
This month’s gathering in Geneva was an important milestone as it resulted in a formal agreement on the underlying principles and practical guidelines for governments and employers. The REC formed part of the official employers’ delegation under the auspices of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and alongside representatives from World Employment Confederation (WEC) – the representative body for the global recruitment industry.
What is the Fair Recruitment initiative?
Core aims include addressing human trafficking and abusive hiring practices by driving respect for labour standards and non-discrimination. These and other key Fair Recruitment principles – such as clear and transparent contracts – are already embedded in the REC Code of Practice. However, one of our priorities in Geneva was to ensure that proposed guidelines didn’t inadvertently affect compliant recruitment providers.
Among the key principles adopted was the prohibition of fee-charging to jobseekers and workers. This is already embedded in UK regulations and in the REC’s Code of Professional Practice, as well as in the Code of Conduct for the worldwide recruitment sector and in ILO Convention 181. In emerging markets where it remains common practice for job-seekers to be charged fees, the challenge ahead is to promote new business models.
What role can compliant agencies and representative bodies play?
Key messages taken forward in Geneva include the positive role of private employment agencies within dynamic and well-functioning labour markets. Governments should harness the positive contribution of agencies and their representative bodies to identify instances of exploitative practices perpetrated by rogue providers.
The importance of effective government enforcement as a means of protecting compliant businesses and workers – a consistent REC message for many years – was explicitly recognised. We underlined that working in partnership with national recruitment federations to encourage industry-led certification schemes benefits national governments by driving professional standards and enabling job-seekers and employers to identify compliant recruitment providers.
What’s next for UK recruiters?
Although global-level discussions at the ILO meeting may seem detached from the day to day activities of REC members, a number of factors make them directly relevant. First, broad principles agreed at a global level can set precedents and influence national policies as well as binding international conventions further down the line. Secondly, addressing rogue providers and creating a level playing field can open new market opportunities for UK recruiters. Finally, employers – particularly large global brands – will be asked to promote Fair Recruitment though their supply chains. Awareness of the initiative will serve REC members in good stead in terms of their relationship with clients. The set of principles agreed at the Geneva meeting this month will become a central point of reference for defining and promoting fair recruitment practices around the world in the run-up to further discussions at the annual International Labour Conference in Geneva next June. Our industry’s voice must remain at forefront of this hugely topical debate.