The ILO Protocol to the Forced Labor Convention – What Does It Mean for Businesses?

The ILO Protocol to the Forced Labor Convention – What Does It Mean for Businesses?

In June 2014, the International Labour Office (ILO) voted to adopt a new Protocol to the Forced Labor Convention of 1930.

The Forced Labor Convention, which 178 States have signed and ratified, is one the ILO’s eight core conventions and commits ratifying States to prohibit the use of forced labor. The Protocol was adopted to bring the Forced Labor Convention of 1930 into the modern era, ensuring its continued relevance and ability to address widespread issues such as human trafficking and modern slavery.

So far nine countries, including France and the UK, have ratified the supplementary protocol, which entered into force on November 9th, 2016.

The protocol is legally binding, requiring ratifying member States to submit a report every three years on the measures they have taken to implement the Protocol and ILO Convention No. 29, which the protocol supplements. These reports will be examined by ILO supervisory bodies.

Central to the Protocol is the requirement that Member States establish effective measures to suppress forced or compulsory labor. These measures must cover prevention, prosecution and protection of victims, including their access to remediation. They are usually framed within national law, as is the case in the UK with the Modern Slavery Act.

The Protocol is supported by a Recommendation, providing technical guidance for Member States’ implementation of the Protocol. Below are the top three recommendations outlined within the technical guidance that can be expected to impact businesses:

  1. The strengthening and enforcement of labor law to prevent forced labor across all sectors of the economy, with a particular emphasis on labor inspection services and “to provide for penalties other than penal sanctions, such as confiscation of profits and other assets, and ensure that legal persons can also be held liable (Paragraph 13(b) and (c)).”
  2. The Protocol calls on States to support, encourage and, where appropriate, require human rights due diligence by both the public and private sectors (Article 2(e)).

Examples of countries who are already doing this:

  • The U.S., although not signatory to this Protocol, already has strict requirements of its suppliers laid out in its Federal Acquisition Regulation. Companies in scope must develop and maintain a compliance plan, conduct awareness-raising activities, prohibit trafficking-related activities and report violations in their business and supply chain.
  • The UK Modern Slavery Act requires companies to disclose their due diligence efforts to address modern slavery as a way of encouraging companies to strengthen their efforts and enable consumers to make better informed purchasing decisions.
  • In France, Parliament is discussing the passing of a bill that would make corporate due diligence on respect for human rights mandatory.
  1. The provision of awareness-raising, guidance and support to companies to address forced and compulsory labor.

The ILO Protocol to the Forced Labor Convention is another step towards the increasing regulation of corporate activities with regards to forced labor and human rights. At this point, companies should be aware of increasing pressure towards addressing these illegal activities within their supply chains and prepare accordingly.

For more information on the ILO Protocol to the Forced Labor Convention, contact our regulatory experts at

Are you in scope of existing anti-human trafficking laws or regulations? Find out by reading our Anti-Human Trafficking Scoping Guide, available here as a free download.