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.
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.
- May 19 - The COVID-19 crisis in Asia contributes to conflicts about land. Farmers are often unable to reach their land because of the ban on displacement, just as indigenous people have to avoid the forest. Illegal loggers have free reign as a result.
- 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 20 - There is a lot of uncertainty in the electronic sector due to COVID-19. Workers in Asia lose their work or hours, are not allowed to move and have no access to trade unions. Safety measures are inadequate. There is a threat of dismissal if workers do not show up due to, for example, illness.
- 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.
- July 7 - During the COVID-19 crisis, many new factories appeared in China producing mouth masks. Many of those factories are now closing again because of less demand. It appears that the working conditions in these factories were severely substandard. The production line was often unsafe and workers were paid per mouth mask produced.
- 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 3 - A mining company in Chile has monopolized a large amount of water to be used in the fight against COVID-19. Communities around the mining company therefore have (too) little water to live on.
- 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.
- March 31 - 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 endangers the safety and health of workers.
- Read more here on how COVID-19 affects the service sector.