Forced Labour


Right not to be subjected to slavery, servitude or forced labour

In respecting this right, the supplier should see the following as essential steps:

a. Not making use of slave, forced or compulsory labour in any form;

b. Ensuring that employees are free to resign;

c. Ensuring that all feasible measures are taken to prevent workers from falling into debt bondage through company loans or otherwise.


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You should take steps to ensure that your suppliers do not use or benefit (directly or indirectly) from forced labour. Given that there are different forms of forced labour, you should therefore make it clear to yourselves and your suppliers what kind of forced labour you are referring to.

Forced labour is common in many developing countries. The most common form of forced labour is when the supplier confiscates the employee’s identity papers, lends money to employees (debt bondage) or simply locks employees inside the company.

If you believe that there is a risk of your suppliers using forced labour, and you wish to include this topic in your Code of Conduct, you can add the following requirements to your Code of Conduct by clicking on "Save to clipboard".

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Below there is more information about various aspects of forced labour:

Forced labour
The supplier should ensure that it does not use or benefit (directly or indirectly) from forced labour - i.e. work carried out under enforced conditions or the threat of punishment. Forced labour not only concerns slavery in the traditional sense, but also forced overtime, forced convict labour, human trafficking or debt bondage.

Forced, involuntary overtime occurs when a supplier locks employees inside the workplace, or threatens employees with pay deductions, physical abuse or dismissal if they refuse to work overtime for the supplier.

Human trafficking and debt bondage
Human trafficking and debt bondage often occur at the same time. Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment or kidnapping and transport of a person - using threats, violence, force or deception - for the purpose of forced labour under poor conditions in a different society than that from which the person originates. Victims of human trafficking will often be bound by debt, so that that they are forced to work because they owe money to the supplier, or a human trafficker or recruitment office.

Employees can also find themselves in debt to the supplier if the supplier fails to pay them a living wage, forcing employees to accept advances on their wages or to borrow money from the supplier to cover their living costs. In practice, debt and ongoing advances tie them to the workplace.

The supplier can avoid contributing to the forced labour associated with debt by ensuring that it signs employment contracts with all employees, that the contracts are reasonable and transparent, and that the employees understand them before they start work.

Confiscation of identity papers
In several countries, it is common for suppliers to confiscate workers’ identity papers or travel documents.

Confiscation of travel documents or identity papers imposes unreasonable restrictions on an employee’s right to freedom of movement and can result in the individual being forced against his or her will to continue to work for the supplier. Confiscation of important personal documents can also restrict a person’s ability to seek work elsewhere, to move freely outside working hours, or to leave the country. If the supplier refuses to write a letter of dismissal, which is required in some countries in order to terminate employment, this can also lead to forced labour.

Other relevant information

ILO Convention no. 29 concerning forced or compulsory labour and ILO Convention no. 105 concerning the abolition of forced labour. Denmark has ratified both conventions, and Danish law is in accordance with these conventions.
Requirements concerning forced labour will often include references to Conventions and standards concerning forced labour

ILO Convention no. 29 defines forced labour as any situation where the employee is unable to leave his or her job due to debt to the supplier or a recruitment agent. Wages in the form of loans do not constitute debt bondage in themselves, but certain conditions may be equivalent to debt bondage. For example:

  • If it is unrealistic to expect that the debt can be repaid
  • If the amount of debt is very high
  • If the conditions for the loan are such that the employee is forced to work for this particular employer and cannot change workplace
  • If the interest rate is higher than the market rate of interest
  • If the employee’s (debtor's) debt is such that it is impossible for the employee to maintain a reasonable standard of living for himself/herself and his/her family

Import of labour
ILO Convention no. 29 also prescribes that:

  • Forced labour exists if your supplier imports labour by fraudulent means, kidnapping or any other exploitation of the position of power of the company or the management
  • You are considered to be an accessory to forced labour if your supplier buys products/services or otherwise collaborates with other suppliers that employ forced labour
  • Forced labour exists if your supplier confiscates identity papers, passport, national health service medical card, etc. so that the employee is forced to work for the supplier until these documents are returned

Besides the aforementioned ILO Conventions, the supplier may also encounter references to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Denmark has ratified. The Convention is broadly worded and establishes, among other things, that no person may be ordered to perform forced labour or other forced duties. Finally, you may encounter references to the European Convention on Human Rights, which also protects employees from forced labour. This Convention applies in Denmark as part of Danish law. 

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