Recent scandals over the years relating to human rights infringements in the supply chain for a number of brands have led to a renewed interest from the public.
The progress has been getting longer and more complicated as some chains span the globe. While most HR professional will be aware of the issue, others do not have access to round the clock employment law advice. HR teams are now trying to explore exactly what role they should play to ensure all workers rights (and human rights as a whole) are being met.
This article explores the role of HR teams in the supply chain and how they can contribute to improving workers’ conditions.
Research shows that adequate human resource management has a direct impact on the supply chain. This in-turn impacts consumer satisfaction, organisational performance and other ethical concerns.
The modern slavery act put into law in 2015 required firms based in the UK and with an annual turnover of £36 million to release information pertaining to forced labour. The legislation requires them to show that they’re taking steps to ensure that their business doesn’t practice forced or slave labour in their supply chain.
Other elements of the act include:
- Consolidating existing human rights offences into one single act.
- Creating anti-slavery commissioner to better respond to issues relating to modern slavery.
- Making provisions for independent child trafficking advocates.
- Introducing a defence for victims of slavery and trafficking.
Ensuring worker rights along the supply chain
Since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act (2015), HR professionals often roll human rights into their employment rights process. While this addresses some issues, it also overlooks non-employment related human rights issues.
HR departments have now found themselves responsible for identifying and addressing other issues relating to other human rights such as education, education and indigenous rights.
It’s important to remember that your company’s HR practices should be aligned with your supply chain management. The aim of this is to
- Foster the involvement of the members of the supply chain.
- Promote the integration of the supply chain.
- Ensure better business outcomes.
Eight steps to effective human rights due diligence
- Conducting human rights assessment, primary and secondary research, gap analysis and more to identify human rights issues that need to be addressed.
- Identify risks to human rights and to rights-holders.
- Prioritisation of common human rights issues.
- Develop an action plan based on risks identified in the assessment.
- Work together with other departments to ensure cross-functionality.
- Considerations for human rights when creating internal compliance mechanisms.
- Provide employees with adequate training.
- Ensure that there’s an effective grievance procedure in place to handle complaints.
In conclusion, HR teams should have an active role in ensuring that their company’s adhering to the legislation around workers rights in the supply chain. Not only to avoid the costs associated with legal claims relating to human rights abuse. But also because the better people are managed within an organisation with supply chain relationships, the better the supply chain functions will be.
Whilst this article focuses on supply chain, it’s important to take the conditions of your workers serious across your entire business, regardless of your size. So whether it’s sales & business development staff, account managers, procurement, merchandising, customer services or buying, it’s important to make sure your employees have a positive working environment.
And when we say ‘environment’ we don’t just mean the office, for field sales staff, this would apply to their conditions for working from home, or the company vehicles they have to use for business purposes.
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