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Modern slavery

Changes to recruitment industry critical to combat slavery

Criminality is rife in the recruitment industry in many countries. Vulnerable workers are exploited at all stages of the recruitment process—right from the initial stage where they often incur large debts to pay recruitment agents' fees.

In a passionate discussion that delves into exploring the role of business in eradicating modern day slavery, IKEA’s head of stakeholder engagement, Simon Henzell-Thomas, and the Freedom Fund’s CEO, Nick Grono, discuss the issue of worker exploitation in the recruitment industry’s processes.

“Workers pay for a job opportunity,” explains Henzell-Thomas. “They are often vulnerable, ill-educated and can’t read. They have no ability to challenge the recruitment agent.”

“These fees will be used to pay bribes all the way through the process,” adds Grono. “The recruitment company supplies the workers, no questions asked, to the company.         

There has to be a way of doing this where the profits aren’t being paid to the criminal element.”

“Unless we change the business model of recruitment we cannot solve the issue of forced labor,” says Henzell-Thomas. “If you professionalize the service the employer always pays the recruitment fee rather than the worker.”

“You want to get on top of your recruitment process because of the bribery component, you can’t deny knowledge now, there are risks around all of this issue,” says Grono. “Apple has been doing some really good work in China, ensuring that the factories pay the recruitment fee.”

How the recruitment industry takes advantage of vulnerable migrant workers

Listen to the full audio segment below.

Watch the full panel discussion in the video recording: Moving beyond compliance [50:14]

Thank you to our panelists:

  • Benet Northcote, Director for Corporate Responsibility, John Lewis Partnership
  • Natacha Dimitrejevic, Associate Director, Hermes Equity Ownership Service
  • Simon Henzell-Thomas, Head of Stakeholder Engagement & Sustainability Policy Manager, Inter IKEA Group
  • Nick Grono, CEO, The Freedom Fund

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