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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.