How hotels can be leaders in the fight against modern slavery

by The Shiva Foundation

Globally, there are 40.3 million people estimated to be living in slavery[1]. In the UK alone, there are an estimated 13,000 people[2] living in exploitative conditions. With more than one in 10 people working in hospitality around the world[3], the sector has the opportunity to take a strong stand on modern slavery. With different risk areas, including sexual exploitation in rooms, unscrupulous practices in multi-tier recruitment systems and supply chain opacity hiding exploitation, the hotel industry has unique challenges that have to be considered.

We are seeing a greater push for businesses to take the lead in fighting modern slavery. Consumer interest, investor scrutiny and legislation all add to the moral argument for businesses to ensure that all workers contributing to their product or service are not living in exploitation. There have been great initiatives by such hotels brands as Marriott, Carlson and Accor, which deal with the issue of sexual exploitation. With as many people working in the sector as we know do, there are a number of steps businesses can take to ensure that their staff and the staff hired by their suppliers are not working as slaves. The Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network has created a tool to help hoteliers work with their suppliers, both of goods and labour, to address modern slavery: the Framework for Working with Suppliers (“Framework”).

The main risks to worker welfare in labour sourcing and recruitment that businesses should look out for include:

  • Charging recruitment fees - fees can be for the recruitment itself, or for travel or passport administration, for example. These fees can leave workers indefinitely indebted to their recruiters because of the high fees.
  • Contract deception - workers can find themselves either signing up to a contract they don’t understand because it isn’t in their native language, or in a role completely different to what the original contract specified.
  • Wages and benefits - a common indicator of labour exploitation is the withholding of wages or unreasonable pay deductions.
  • Retention of identification documents - workers can end up bound to their employer if their passports or other valuables are withheld.
  • Worker living accommodations - providing accommodation for workers isn’t a problem unless the accommodation is unsafe, unclean and forced on a worker who may have no other option.

By working with your suppliers, however, measures can be put in place to address these risks. There are a variety of ways to work with suppliers, from individual meetings to training, however it is important that it is a two-way engagement for any initiatives to be effective and sustainable. The Framework, which has been endorsed by the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, addresses these risks within a hotel industry context, provides a plan for engaging suppliers including mapping risk, defining policies, and various methods for engagement, and signposts to a variety of good practice guidance. It is intended to be used by stakeholders at various levels of management within the hotel industry and recommends specific responsibilities for brands, hotel owners and management companies, based on best practice and the experience and input of the Network membership. It comes after the Network launched a resource hub in July 2017 to provide industry members with access to a range of relevant anti-trafficking materials and resources.

[1] http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang--en/index.htm

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/modern-slavery-strategy

[3] https://www.wttc.org/-/media/files/reports/economic-impact-research/regions-2017/world2017.pdf

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