Ajda Cevc, Sustainability Development Leader, Inter IKEA Group
A year after the first gathering on responsible recruitment in Berlin it is safe to say that awareness around the widespread practice of charging recruitment fees and related costs to workers instead of employers in many regions around the world is now in the spotlight of multinational brands. What comes next?
As with any systemic issue, the charging of fees and costs is not happening in a vacuum – it is the product of legislative, political, cultural and economic realities, some of which are easier to address than others. But any approach to solving the issue without addressing or at least taking these realities into consideration is destined to fail. So, what are some of the relatively low hanging fruit that actors around the table could start with?
Perhaps the biggest obstacles in transitioning to an ’employer pays model’ of recruitment are those national legislations that still permit recruitment fees and related costs to be charged to the worker instead of the employer. Plus, legislation’s necessary partner is enforcement – even the appropriate legislation can yield no results due to lack of enforcement.
Keeping in mind that unethical recruitment is a global multi-billion dollar business, public and private financial and judicial institutions also have a significant role in cutting the illegal money flows. Millions of dollars flowing to recruitment agents, middle men or government officials are in many parts of the world being transferred through legal channels without legislative or contractual basis. Cutting these flows would significantly hinder individuals and organisations profiting from charging workers in need of a job.
During this year’s Forum we had the pleasure of meeting several fair recruitment agencies that claim to be operating an ’employer pays model’. Their numbers are growing and, even more importantly, in countries where several years ago such an approach was unheard of. It is crucial that we recognise their struggle to build ethical businesses in environments where employers are not used to paying for the services of recruitment agents or where workers commonly believe that one needs to pay for a job abroad. Supporting the business of these trailblazers is crucial for further development of the ethical recruitment market.
While addressing some of the factors that are comparably easier to tackle, we cannot lose sight of the issues on the other end of the spectrum, such as corruption, workers’ low awareness of their rights, deeply embedded customs of paying for a job referral and other associated services etc. Shifting these will be a long-term journey, but creating an environment where worker-paid fees are no longer legal, necessary and/or possible could minimise these more complex factors.
Ensuring that workers enter into employment and end it freely and without obligation is essential to a person’s dignity. It is high time we collectively take purposeful and holistic steps for the ’employer pays model’ of recruitment to prevail.