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What a great week M&S and our suppliers have spent exploring responsible recruitment with a fantastic seeing is believing visit to G’s, a responsible recruitment toolkit webinar, 5 guest blogs and a public event. This has helped to build best practice understanding, to share challenges, and to strengthen collaboration to accelerate responsible recruitment throughout all our supply chains both in the UK and internationally.  We identified 12 key take outs from the week’s learning.

  1. Recruiting ethically is a common problem. This is consistent across many sectors such as construction, fast fashion, logistics and food and not only a problem in the Middle East and Far East but a growing concern in Europe too. Key countries where most businesses are concerned about risk are the UK, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.
  2. Labour shortages are common across Europe. The main countries workers typically migrated from are now short of labour too and working harder to encourage citizens to stay.
  3. No absence of law but an absence of enforcement. Recruitment fees are illegal in Europe, be it for permanent or temporary workers. It is important to understand the different recruitment channels; are they formal or informal? Does the government regulate by registration or licence?  Licensing typically has a higher level of enforcement.
  4. First mile is the greatest risk. The shortage of labour means the sourcing of labour is going to more rural locations where individuals are less worldly, potentially less educated and lower income. Greater use of in country sub-contractors means often the indebtedness and coercion can start in the first mile from home. In worker interviews questions asked are; How is individual able to afford to travel? Who told them about the job? We need to start logging the results to look for common themes.
  5. Back to Basics. Create safe space for conversations with workers, ensure any victims are adequately protected and supported. Start by mapping the labour flow, the use of labour providers and subcontractors. Start to build a simple framework to rank Labour provision by risk - use of subcontracting, prevalence of charging below rates, high turnover, and sourcing from higher risk countries. Use the framework to encourage rewarding better ethical recruiters. Lots of further advice is available in
  6. Labour sharing models.  We are starting to see more examples of different businesses working collaboratively to manage seasonal peaks. Being able to guarantee work and working conditions means more likely to secure and retain the labour.
  7. Awareness.  Business and survivors sharing human stories of worker exploitation is key to understanding the complexity of the issues and to enabling solutions. Every business is struggling with employer pays (ending recruitment fees). The first step is understanding the scale of the issue then looking to narrow the gap.
  8. Interviewing is not the be all and end all.  Simple practical skills tests and getting the individual to imagine what the job reality is can give better insight for both business and applicant. At the seeing is believing visit this week G’s group tested participants with the mushroom dexterity test – it was clear not too many in the room had the natural aptitude!
  9. Always put yourself in the worker’s shoes.  Follow your recruitment process through each stage from being an applicant to a new starter and experience from a worker point of view – maybe use a mystery applicant (similar to a mystery shopper). Identify where your process is not applicant / worker friendly
  10. Communication, Communication, Communication – utilise social media, pictorial handbooks, language specific inductions.
  11. Entrepreneurial businesses are developing new business models to protect worker rights. We finished the week with hosting a joint event with IHRB and Consumer Goods Forum with 50 attendees from Fashion, Logistics, Construction and Food and were joined by labour providers, government representatives, other industry bodies and collaborative initiatives. Vinci construction spoke about their ground breaking work in Qatar and how they are now staring to apply that thinking to Europe.  Hermes shared the background thinking behind ground breaking agreement with GMB  on self-employed plus.
  12. Keep learning. The biggest learning from the week is never stop learning, keep piloting new things that can have a positive effect on responsible recruitment.   A lot of times it is the little things that make the biggest difference for workers.