For further information on the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights please visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2019ForumBHR.aspx

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Tuesday, November 26 • 11:40 - 13:00
Protecting and respecting human rights in the future of work

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Session organized by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, the Solidarity Centre and the International Transport and Workers' Federation (ITF)

Interpretation in English and Spanish provided by DOCIP

Webcast of the session:
Meeting link
Meeting number: 840 079 851
Password: rBEJX7Zh

Session Description
Drawing from examples from around the globe, the proposed panel will examine the duty of states to protect workers from the erosion of their rights, with a specific focus on the platform and informal economies, highlight important gaps in legal definitions, propose alternatives which extend labour rights to all workers regardless of their contractual arrangements or employment status, and include recommendations for states to revitalize the institutions of work and strengthen workers’ protections in this new era of work. The panel will also debate the need for international regulation of digital labour platforms.
The legal, but ultimately political question, as to what is “work” and who is a “worker” has been and continues to be a contested terrain, with major implications for those who perform work, employers, and governments. The introduction of new technologies, and in particular the emergence of digital platforms, has been used to further erode the employment relationship, and thus who is a bearer of a wide range of labour rights and conversely, who is a duty bearer. Drawing from examples from around the globe, panellists will examine the state duty to protect labour rights and implications for the corporate responsibility to respect these rights as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Session objectives
Drawing from examples around the world (in the platform and informal economies), the sessions aims to examine the state duty to protect labour rights in the future of work and implications for the corporate responsibility to respect these rights.

Key discussion questions
  • What is work and who is a worker?
  • What are the different responsibilities regarding labour rights?
  • Who is the duty bearer in the “gig” and informal economy?
  • What does effective protection of labour rights mean?
  • What kind of regulatory action is needed to protect labour rights?
  • Is there a need for international regulation?
  • What is the responsibility of companies?
  • What is the role of national courts in clarifying, interpreting, and defining new labour relationships?
  • What is the role of regulators?
  • What are good practice examples of worker protections?
  • The ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work recommends an international governance of digital labour platforms. Is this feasible?

Background to the discussion 
The world of work is changing, and governments and employers have a key role to play in shaping its future and in protecting and respecting labour rights. Gaps in legislation and narrow definitions of “employees” under national laws have left workers in new forms of work, such as work on digital labour platforms, without legal protections. Regulators have been absent and courts have been left to clarify, interpret, and define who is a worker in the rapidly expanding gig economy. Meanwhile, informal employment is the norm, rather than the exception, in much of the world. Informal workers in supply chains are more prone to exploitative working conditions, including poor wages, poor health and safety standards, inadequate leave entitlements, and gender discrimination.
Many countries’ laws fall short of ensuring access of all workers to fundamental labour rights. It is against this backdrop that panellists will examine implications for the state duty to protect labour rights and corporate responsibility to respect human rights in the future of work.

avatar for Maysa Zorob

Maysa Zorob

Corporate Legal Accountability Manager, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Maysa Zorob manages the Corporate Legal Accountability Program at the Business & Human Rights Resources Centre in New York. She specializes in remedy for victims of corporate human rights abuse and legal liability of companies for adverse human rights impacts. For more than a decade... Read More →

avatar for Jeffrey Vogt

Jeffrey Vogt

Legal Director, Solidarity Center
Jeff Vogt is the Rule of Law Director of the Solidarity Center, the largest U.S.-based international worker rights organization supporting workers attain dignity on the job and greater equity at work and in their community. He supports trade unions on legal and policy advocacy before... Read More →
avatar for Ruwan Subasinghe

Ruwan Subasinghe

Legal Director, International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)
Ruwan Subasinghe is the Legal Director of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). He specialises in labour, human rights and international law. Ruwan represents the ITF at external bodies including the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Organization for... Read More →
avatar for Marlese von Broembsen

Marlese von Broembsen

Law Programme Director, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
I am the Law Programme Director for Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO). WIEGO is an research-advocacy network that supports representative organisations of informal workers, especially women, to gain legal and social protection at the national and international... Read More →
avatar for Janine Berg

Janine Berg

Senior Economist, Inclusive Labour Markets, Labour Relations and Working Conditions Branch (INWORK), International Labour Organization (ILO)

Tuesday November 26, 2019 11:40 - 13:00 CET
Room XXV