A major cause of forced labour in global supply chains is the charging of recruitment fees to migrant workers. Every day, thousands of men and women around the world pay large fees to middle-men and recruitment agents, often by taking out loans at high interest rates, for work overseas and the hope of a better life for themselves and their families. Recruitment is the point at which migrant workers face one of the greatest risks of entering a cycle of abuse and exploitation that also affects their families and communities. Recruitment is carried out by agents located in origin, transit, and destination countries. They play a crucial role in connecting employers to prospective migrant workers, negotiating the terms and conditions of their future employment and helping facilitate the issuance of passports, visa documents, pre-departure training programmes, skill tests and medical check-ups. Recruitment charges to workers cover a range of costs including the recruitment itself, travel, visa and administrative costs, and often other unspecified ‘fees’ and ‘service charges’. Workers will typically pay more for recruitment than their employers would have been charged for the same service, largely due to the widespread acceptance by workers of the need to pay inflated fees for jobs. Under the Employer Pays Principle, the employer should bear the full costs of recruitment and placement. Such costs typically include those specific to a particular recruitment, for example the fees for skills tests and training, visa processing, medical examinations, travel, and the recruitment agent’s service charges either paid before or after a worker arrives in the country of destination. Other associated costs that are not specific to the employer include those relating to obtaining a passport, undertaking a medical exam, and securing insurance in the origin country, all of which essentially belong to workers and can be used by them in the future. In some jurisdictions, workers may be required to pay for such items and services that provide an on-going benefit to them. However, for low-wage migrant workers, all fees associated with recruitment can have serious negative human rights impacts, including the risk of debt bondage and forced labour, as well as hardship for their families die to debt-servicing and erosion of remittances. Accordingly, the Employer Pays Principle stresses that all fees should be paid by the employer, and only the employer should pay.
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