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22 Apr 2020

Katie Hepworth, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility

Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility highlights the role of investors in holding companies to account for treatment of workers during COVID-19 crisis

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“Decent Work during COVID: The Role for Investors”, 22 April 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has … illuminated and intensified economic inequality. The growth of temporary … precarious work … has left some workers more exposed to the impacts of the pandemic ... The crisis has also revealed … female and/or migrant workers [are] more likely to be exposed … through their essential — but low paid — work …

… [T]here is a role for investors in ensuring that companies adhere to strong social, labour rights and human rights standards. The COVID crisis is an opportunity for investors to fortify their engagement on the “S”in ESG.

ACCR has developed this set of principles to guide investor engagement on decent work and workers’ rights during the COVID crisis.

1. Bailout and stimulus funds must be used for the long-term development of the company, not for short-term shareholder returns, share buybacks or dividends

2. Management must share in the burden of COVID-19 restructuring. Any stimulus must go to supporting workers and maintaining the overall human capital of the organisation.

3. All workers must be provided with a safe workplace, if they are required to work.

4. Workers must have an active role in the design, implementation and monitoring of a company’s COVID-19 response.

5. Companies must ensure that all workers have access to health care, irrespective of health insurance or visa status.

6. Companies must take responsibility for their indirect workforce and suppliers in developing their COVID response.

7. Investors must engage lead companies in sectors with high risk of modern slavery on the additional due diligence they will undertake to mitigate modern slavery risks in their supply chains.