COVID-19 brings challenges for business and human rights. In general, migrant workers are vulnerable. They are trapped abroad and reception is often not well organised. Examples are known in The Netherlands in which shelter is part of temporary contracts. If these contracts are dissolved, labour migrants are homeless. In Qatar, thousands of labour migrants are trapped in densely populated and closed camps.
What can companies do? Business & Human Rights has developed a due diligence framework for companies focused on the proper treatment of employees in this crisis. Human Rights Watch has also drawn up a human rights checklist. The ILO has drawn up a checklist for the prevention of COVID-19 in small and medium-sized enterprises.
Below you will find an overview per sector which CSR risks (among others) occur in international trade chains. Read more about CSR risks in supply chains on this Business & Human Rights page.
The COVID-19 crisis affects agriculture. The main problems are transport to and from the fields, accommodation for the agricultural workers who do not have the right space and a shortage of protective equipment on the fields.
- February 2021 - The COVID 19 pandemic posed major challenges to the agriculture and accommodation and food sectors in the EU. For seasonal workers, the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated their already very tense situation. Lack of income, restrictions on freedom of movement and lack of access to better sanitation and the health system were and are the main reasons for the very precarious situation of seasonal workers
- September 22 - In Honduras, a new law has been passed re-listing and registering land. The fear is that land belonging to farmers and indigenous tribes will be misappropriated by large companies. Farmers are not allowed to go to their land through the national lockdown and can therefore make little protest.
- Read more here on how COVID-19 affects agriculture.
Within factories, it is often difficult to create distance between workers and too few protective equipment is present, so the risk of contamination remains. In the manufacture of protective equipment, more violations of working conditions are reported. When factories are closed, there is often no continued payment of workers.
- July 2020 - There is great uncertainty in the electronics sector due to COVID-19. Workers in Asia are losing their jobs or working hours, are not allowed to move and have no access to trade unions. Safety measures are inadequate. There is a risk of dismissal if workers do not show up due to illness.
- October 18 - There is an increased risk of crew exploitation on fishing vessels in Asia. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, vessels are not monitored and are often not allowed ashore, which can cause situations on board to deteriorate rapidly.
- Read more here about how COVID-19 affects the industry.
COVID-19 causes many problems in the textile sector. Due to cancelled orders, employees are sent home without payment. Those who still have to work do so in a poorly protected environment.
- June 2021 - In Haiti, 57,000 sewing factory workers are still waiting for Corona government aid.
- March 2021 - Shoe and leather workers in India have had to cope with severe consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic: months without income due to the lockdown and now almost half of them are out of work. The pandemic exposes the inequality in manufacturing value chains and the vulnerability of workers that the pandemic exacerbated.
- August 28 - A textile plant in Leicester, United Kingdom, did not take measures for employees to keep their distance during work and summoned employees to show up while testing positive for COVID-19, putting other employees at unnecessary risk of getting the virus as well.
- Read more here about how COVID-19 affects the textile sector.
In the oil/mining sector, COVID-19 leads to difficulties. In order to prevent contamination, workers are expected to stay longer around the mines/platforms, while the conditions and facilities for this are often not optimal.
- July 2020 - A mining company in Chile has monopolised a large amount of water to be used in the fight against COVID-19. The communities around the mining company therefore have (too) little water to live from.
- October 5 - In the phosphate mines in Jordan, there is an unsafe working environment for employees with regard to the situation around COVID-19.
- Read more here on how COVID-19 affects the oil/mining industry.
Several employee groups have low social security: they often do not have paid sick leave and are paid per shift. These people also come into contact with others more quickly, which increases the risk of infection.
- June 2021 - The National Human Rights Commission reports that police and other security forces in Nigeria killed 11 people in the enforcement of the COVID-19 lockdown and violated human rights, including through unlawful arrests and torture.
- March 2020 - Delivery couriers affected by COVID-19 in the UK receive little or no statutory sick pay, which could encourage workers to continue working in order to survive financially. This puts workers' health and safety at risk.
- September 9 - Employees in call centres in Morocco and Tunisia are not allowed to work from home, are seldom paid in full due to unrealistic goals and are not paid in case of illness. Working on location in particular makes it difficult to keep distance and can help spread COVID-19.
- Read more here on how COVID-19 affects the service sector.