Dutch Senate votes to adopt child labour due diligence law

On 7 February 2017, the lower house of the Dutch Parliament adopted a law introducing a duty of care to prevent child labour. The “Child Labour Due Diligence Law” requires companies selling goods and services to Dutch end-users to determine whether child labour occurs in their supply chains. If so, companies must set out a plan of action on how to combat it and issue a due diligence statement on their investigation and plan of action.

A first debate was held in the Senate on 19 December 2017, and on 14 May 2019, the Senate voted to adopt the law. According to the MVO Platform, it is now up to the government to elaborate a number of important elements of the Act, in the form of General Administrative Orders - on which the law's effectiveness will partially rest. They have also called for the government to investigate the possibility of broad due diligence legislation. More information is available below.

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Article
10 June 2019

Dutch child labour due diligence law: a step towards mandatory human rights due diligence

Author: Anneloes Hoff, Oxford Human Rights Hub

Over the past few years, various countries in the Global North have passed new legislation imposing human rights reporting requirements on companies [...], as well as mandatory human rights due diligence...

The Dutch law introduces a duty of care [zorgplicht] to prevent the supply of goods or services which have been produced using child labour... [I]t concerns a generic duty to exercise due diligence [gepaste zorgvuldigheid], which the law elaborates...

Several aspects make the Dutch law distinct in the wider legislative trend. First, it dictates the appointment of a regulator [toezichthouder] (art. 3), who publishes the corporate human rights due diligence statements in an online public registry (4.5)...

Second, it is the first to introduce criminal sanctions for a failure to exercise human rights due diligence...

Third, the law attempts to incorporate an existing mechanism of responsible business conduct. Critics of the law worried that binding legislation would undermine the existing model in the Netherlands for addressing complex business and human rights issues through so-called ‘covenants’ (Agreements on Responsible Business Conduct)... Notably, the law indirectly includes the covenants in article 5.4...

Several details of the law remain to be specified through implementing decrees [algemene maatregelen van bestuur]... The scope of the law is currently limited to child labour, but it could prompt the development of broad human rights due diligence legislation in the future.

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Article
4 June 2019

Netherlands Takes Big Step Toward Tackling Child Labor

Author: Juliane Kippenberg, Human Rights Watch

On May 14, the Dutch Senate adopted the "Child Labor Due Diligence" law that obliges companies to find out whether their goods have been produced using child labor and come up with a plan to prevent child labor in its supply chain if they find it. Businesses also have to submit a statement describing their due diligence efforts...

A supply chain is composed of the steps taken before a completed product reaches the shelves... Human Rights Watch has documented how children do backbreaking and hazardous work at many stages of this process, including in gold minestobacco fields, and garment factories, all of which supply the global market...

This bill sends an important political signal, even though it is envisaged to enter into force only in 2022, and details need to be worked out through administrative orders.

The Netherlands is not the first country to take steps toward tackling child labor... France is requiring large companies to conduct due diligence for human rights generally, while the United Kingdom and Australia have introduced legislation on modern slavery in global supply chains.

It is encouraging to see that lawmakers in the Netherlands have joined this trend... Companies need to be held accountable for human rights conditions in their supply chains.

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Article
20 May 2019

Netherlands: Analysis of new child labour due diligence law outlines key features and potential shortcomings

Author: Anya Marcelis, Ergon

'Dutch take the lead on child labour with new due diligence law' 17 May 2019

Almost three years since its introduction into parliament, the Wet zorgplicht kinderarbeid (Child Labour Due Diligence Bill) was adopted in the Dutch Lower House... The bill will come into force at the earliest on 1 January 2020....

Focusing on reporting requirements, the new law aims primarily to provide transparency to Dutch consumers and other stakeholders on products and services whose sourcing may involve child labour...

...Companies will be required to submit to the Dutch supervising authority... a disclosure statement... These statements will be made publicly available by the state authority...

Companies will be required to investigate whether there is ‘reasonable suspicion’ of child labour in their activities and supply chains... If such a ‘reasonable suspicion’ is identified, companies are required to develop an action plan...

The only apparent way to enforce the law will be if a person or company submits a complaint to the relevant regulating authority... Unlike the French Duty of Vigilance Law, complainants do not have access to seek remedy through a civil lawsuit...

...[F]ocusing corporate action on a single human rights issue... runs contrary to trends in other jurisdictions that are considering a broader approach to human rights due diligence... Finally, its limited enforcement mechanism and lack of remedy may be seen as weaknesses...

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Article
14 May 2019

The Netherlands takes a historic step by adopting child labour due diligence law

Author: MVO Platform

14 May 2019

[I]n February 2017 the Dutch Lower House passed the Child Labour Due Diligence Bill. This law requires companies to identify, prevent and if necessary address the issue of child labour in their supply chains. Now the Senate has voted to adopt the law, all companies must declare that they will make efforts to address these problems...

It is now up to the government to elaborate a number of important elements of the Act, in the form of General Administrative Orders... The law’s effectiveness will partially depend on the further specification of these elements. “The MVO Platform calls on the government to ensure, through these General Administrative Orders, that the law applies to a large scope of businesses... Strict enforcement of businesses’ compliance with the law is also of great importance..."

In addition to child labour, companies should also be required to address other risks of negative impacts on labour standards, human rights and the environment in their supply chains. The MVO Platform therefore calls on the Dutch government to promptly investigate the possibility of broad due diligence legislation...

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Article
1 November 2017

Coalition of businesses issues joint letter in support of Dutch law introducing a duty of care on child labour

Author: Tony’s Chocolonely, Arte Natuursteenbewerking, ASN Bank, Barry Callebaut, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, Fairphone, Heineken, Holland Biodiversity, Marcel Wanders Studio, Max Havelaar, Moooi, Moyee Coffee, Nestlé Nederland, Nova Media, Questionmark, Rabobank Nederland, Raptim Humanitarian Travel, Social Entreprise NL, Squarewise Transitions, The Dutch Weedburger, Verstegen Spices & Sauces, Woningwaard

[Note: This is an unofficial translation of the Dutch letter published on 3 October 2017 which is available here. Background information on the Dutch bill available here.]

With this letter, we as a private sector jointly express our support for a legal framework for a duty of care on child labour. No matter how common child labour is, it is a system error. The problem is not being dealt with seriously enough and the current handling is not sufficient. Based on voluntary initiatives and self-regulation, more is needed to tackle the problem...  Legislation demands transparency and accelerates targeted activities of companies to seriously prevent child labour in their production chain. A legal framework provides clarity about the norms and rules to be followed and enables the tackling of child labour. Child labour robs children of their future. It's time we seriously address the issue. The Dutch government has the authority to impose a duty of care on all companies through legislation to prevent the supply of products created by child labour. All products and services on the Dutch market must comply with the 100% child labour free standard.

Download the full document here

Article
22 May 2017

Bill adopted by Dutch Parliament introducing a duty of care to prevent child labour

Author: Barbara Bier, Daan Doorenbos & Christien Saris, Stibbe, on Lexology

On 7 February 2017, the Dutch Parliament adopted a bill introducing a duty of care to prevent child labour (Wet zorgplicht kinderarbeid – the "Bill"). The Bill requires companies selling goods and services to Dutch end-users to determine whether child labour occurs in their supply chains. If so, companies must set out a plan of action on how to combat it and issue a due diligence statement (verklaring gepaste zorgvuldigheid) on their investigation and plan of action. In cases of non-compliance, companies risk a fine up to a maximum of EUR 820,000 or, alternatively, 10% of their annual turnover. The Bill is now before the Senate and – if approved – it will not come into effect before 1 January 2020...A supervising authority will be appointed to monitor compliance with the Bill. The statement will be recorded in a public register...Being fined twice within five years will constitute an economic offence, which may lead to criminal proceedings...Although the Bill has yet to be finalized and approved, it is important for companies to align their policies with this new legislation over the next few years.

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