JLP Responsible Sourcing Part II: Child Labour

In today’s post, we cover Section B of The John Lewis Partnership‘s Responsible Sourcing Supplier Workbook which tackles issues relating to the employment of children.

Children work in every country in the world, and the work can take many forms, not all of which are problematic or illegal. Child labour becomes a problem when children are exploited, put at risk, forced to work in an unhealthy environment, denied an education, or denied a childhood.

The workbook defines unacceptable forms of child labour as:

  • children forced to work against their will as bonded labour
  • children working in formal factories under the legal minimum age
  • children working in hazardous conditions

The workbook also lays out the JLP code for acceptable child labour:

  • no recruiting or employment of children under 15 (or 14 if ILO exemptions apply)
  • no exploitation and no denial of education
  • protection of health and safety at all times
  • no working at night or in hazardous conditions
  • there shall be a clear policy for dealing with under-age workers

Furthermore, the workbook identifies the following situations for examination on a case-by-case basis to make sure the employment is acceptable:

  • children who work regularly and attend school
  • children who work occasionally to supplement parental income
  • children who work at home
  • children who live in and around work sites
  • children who are involved with seasonal harvesting

The workbook also points out some relevant facts:

  • high-risk countries for child labour include India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and, increasingly, China
  • over 246 million children worldwide are involved in child labour
  • more than half of these children are engaged in hazardous work with 180 million facing long-term health risks
  • with the number of children orphaned by HIV now at 15 million, the risk that more children will be forced into labor has increased

Thus, as a supplier you need to insure that

  • there are effective systems to check age at time of recruitment
  • a personnel file for each worker is kept
  • a clear and documented policy is developed to deal with child labor
  • if you have a creche, this is an adequate distance from production areas
  • your workers have access to education
  • each of your suppliers also follows the rules

You also need to be active in the protection of young workers:

  • identify who your young workers are
  • carry out a risk assessment for these young workers
  • remove any hazards or risks they are exposed to
  • carry out regular spot checks
  • scrutinize shift rosters, timecards, and wage records for compliance
  • sponsor annual medical checkups and access to health services

If you find child labour that is not compliance with all of the requirements of the JLP Code and the ILO regulations, the workbook also suggests appropriate remediations, since inappropriate responses can often be as damaging as the child labor itself. It also includes some case studies that clarify acceptable child labor from unacceptable child labor and points you to a number of additional resources that you can draw on.

In our next post, we’ll tackle the second major issue addressed by the workbook, forced labor. (You can access all of the posts in the series (to-date) by selecting the JLP category at any time.)