The Netherlands Enacts Law to Combat Child Labor

The Netherlands Enacts Law to Combat Child Labor

In May 2019, the Dutch Senate adopted the Child Labour Due Diligence Law, making the Netherlands the first country to enact legislation that holds businesses to a high standard with regard to child labor in supply chains.

The Child Labour Due Diligence Law applies to companies doing business in the Netherlands, regardless of size and sector, though forthcoming administrative orders may reduce the scope. Companies in scope of the law are required to assess their supply chains to identify the risk of child labor. Following the assessment, companies must implement a due diligence plan to address these risks and submit the plan as a declaration to a public registrar.

The law will provide transparency on the ethical sourcing practices of businesses to consumers, and will allow the Dutch government to more consistently enforce regulations combating modern slavery in supply chains. Not only do non-compliant companies risk incurring fines, but individuals responsible for overseeing compliance also risk imprisonment. By introducing personal liability, the law discourages companies from treating fines associated with non-compliance as the cost of doing business.

The Netherlands follows France, Australia, the United States and the UK  as the latest nation to pass legislation that addresses human rights abuses in supply chains. Other countries are not far behind, with Norway recently appointing an expert committee to investigate whether businesses should be legally required to disclose information on supply chain due diligence.

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While significant regulatory action occurs at the national level, the most noteworthy developments are happening at the regional and international levels, which have the potential to transform how companies select suppliers and conduct business. Aided by the success of national efforts and a growing need for policy coherence, a human rights due diligence law is now being considered in the European Union (EU), with Finland committing to use its forthcoming EU Council presidency to drive policy changes. Finland’s firm stance was accompanied by a commitment of G7 labor ministers in June 2019 to promote the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The signatories agreed to the enabling of policies, regulations and other measures which promote due diligence regarding human rights violations.

The greatest potential for transformative change remains with the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is working toward a way to enforce anti-slavery activities in international human rights law to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The current draft includes a provision whereby states would be required to enact domestic legislation that ensures businesses perform due diligence on all activities.

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