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Fair Labor Association Enhances its Workplace Code of Conduct

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Washington, DC – On June 14, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) Board of Directors approved significant enhancements to the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct and Compliance Benchmarks, which will strengthen protection of workers’ rights. Six out of nine elements of the adopted Code are either new or revised, in areas ranging from hours of work and compensation to health, safety and environment. One feature of the enhanced FLA Code is an entirely new Employment Relationship element that reinforces the employer’s accountability to fair labor standards throughout the employment lifecycle.

“The FLA Workplace Code of Conduct has helped businesses, NGOs and universities protect workers’ rights and improve working conditions throughout the world since its development in 1997,” said recently-appointed FLA Board Chair and former Deputy Secretary of Labor, Kathryn “Kitty” Higgins. “But the time had come to revise and strengthen the Code to reflect experiences since its initial adoption and developments in the field of corporate social responsibility.”

The Code of Conduct is based on international labor and human rights standards – primarily Conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO) – and prohibits discrimination, the use of child or forced labor, and harassment or abuse. It also establishes requirements related to health and safety; freedom of association and collective bargaining; wages and benefits; hours of work; and overtime compensation. Enhancements include:

  •  Requirements to establish human resource management policies and procedures along the entire factory employment lifecycle, from recruitment and hiring to terms and conditions of employment, administration of compensation, work rules and discipline, and termination and retrenchment.
  • A limit for regular weekly hours of work.
  • A requirement that employers, working with the FLA, take appropriate actions that seek to progressively realize a level of compensation that meets workers’ basic needs and provides some discretionary income.
  • Mitigation of negative impacts that the workplace has on the environment.
  • A ban on the use or threat of psychological abuse.

“As companies continue to grow and rely on diverse supply chains, it is vital that they have the systems in place and the tools they need to protect workers. The ground-breaking new elements in the revised code will help make this a reality,” said FLA President and CEO, Auret van Heerden.

Currently, 32 companies and 14 suppliers are affiliated with the FLA, and nearly 200 U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities have brought more than 3,000 collegiate licensees into the FLA program. The FLA works with affiliates to ensure they adhere to the Code, and conducts due diligence through unannounced factory visits. Since 2002, the FLA has conducted approximately 1,300 unannounced visits. The FLA provides training and resources to strengthen the capacity of affiliates to ensure sustainable compliance.

“The FLA is an advocate for workers’ rights and humane working conditions throughout the supply chain,” said FLA Board member Linda Golodner, President Emeritus of the National Consumers League, who represented non-governmental organizations on the working group that helped develop the revised Code. “With these changes, we are reaffirming the core elements of the original code, strengthening protections for workers and reinforcing employers’ accountability for each of the provisions of the Code. Enhancing the Code is an important step in the right direction.”

The revised Code was developed over a two-year period through a process that sought suggestions from a broad range of stakeholders and was adopted by a board that includes equal representation from companies, NGOs and universities. “This is another example of the various constituencies of the FLA working together to improve the lives of workers, not only by setting higher standards but by putting specific requirements in place through the benchmarks so that all stakeholders can know the measures that will be applied in assessing compliance,” said Ms. Higgins.

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The mission of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) is to combine the efforts of industry, colleges and universities, and civil society organizations to protect workers' rights and improve working conditions worldwide by promoting adherence to international labor standards. The FLA conducts independent monitoring and verification to ensure that the FLA's Workplace Standards are upheld where FLA affiliates source their products. Learn more at www.fairlabor.org.

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