Exploitative recruitment remains risk for migrant workers ahead of Qatar World Cup
Ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022, luxury hotel brands in Qatar are not doing enough to end abusive recruitment practices which have left migrant workers struggling under the pressure of debt and low wages. New research by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (Resource Centre) revealed most major hotel brands have limited understanding of their responsibilities towards their workers during the recruitment phase.
The Resource Centre invited 30 hotel brands to respond to a survey about their operations in Qatar and their human rights due diligence processes, including data on the payment of illegal and extortionate recruitment fees often paid by migrant workers. The surveyed brands represented over 115 hotel properties in Qatar – all of which will be completely booked out to host World Cup teams, sponsors and fans during the tournament. Fourteen multinational hotel brands responded to the survey, with their answers revealing modest progress when it comes to undertaking human rights due diligence of the recruitment agencies they work with.
Key findings included:
- Remedying abuse transparently does not appear to be a priority for the majority of hotel brands. Only two brands (Four Seasons and Radisson) committed to disclosing publicly and remediating incidents of recruitment risks and fee payment discovered during the World Cup within six months. Of particular concern was Accor’s response, which stated it could not commit to disclosing information relating to workers at their World Cup-serviced apartments due to a non-disclosure agreement.
- Only two brands (Kempinski and Radisson) have a public policy aligning the Employer Pays Principle -- a commitment to ensure no worker should pay for a job. Although most other brands claimed to have a policy compliant with the EPP, none provided evidence for this.
- Positively, the industry is increasing in transparency overall. Ten of 14 brands (Accor, Ascott, Deutsche Hospitality, Four Seasons, Kempinski, Millennium, Minor, Radisson, Retaj and Whitbread) named at least one recruitment agency or labour supplier, compared with only four brands in 2021. This is a crucial step in the right direction as disclosure of business relationships is at the core of corporate transparency, signalling preparedness by the brands to be scrutinised by investors, rights groups, unions and other stakeholders.
There was also an increase in hotel brands’ direct engagement with workers to uncover fee payment. Encouragingly, nine brands said workers were interviewed at least once during recruitment, compared with just three hotel brands noting this in 2021. Interviews present a crucial opportunity for brands to clarify to workers they are not required to pay fees of any kind to obtain the job. However, only four brands disclosed uncovering fee payments, despite the prevalence of the practice. These findings together suggest the interviewing process for most hotel brands needs strengthening to ensure workers who cite fear and intimidation are able to give voice to their experiences of the recruitment process, including being required to pay illegal fees.
Isobel Archer, Gulf Programme Manager, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “Ahead of the World Cup kick-off this November, recruitment in Qatar has been ramping massively. Migrant workers will be the backbone of this tournament; they will play a central role in ensuring Qatar is able to deliver the one million visitors to the World Cup an unforgettable experience. But there remain major concerns which cannot be ignored. Continued reports of workers paying extortionate recruitment fees are an alarm bell; given the short lifespan of the World Cup, the risk is that hospitality workers contracted only for the duration of the tournament may have paid high recruitment fees and taken on debt which they will not be employed long enough to service, let alone earn any money for themselves and their families.
“The window of opportunity for the hotel industry to turn things around is quickly closing. Hotel brands can easily implement effective changes in the short term that would prevent harm to workers. Simple steps to improve recruitment practices, as outlined in this report, would go a long way, with the impact for workers stretching far beyond December’s final. Otherwise, many workers will face the consequences of recruitment fees long after the tournament winners have lifted their trophy. Hotel brands can play a pivotal role to make sure the legacy of the World Cup is not tainted by further worker suffering. Football teams, corporate sponsors and FIFA officials – all of whom will undoubtedly be luxury hotels’ guests– must use their leverage to push brands in the right direction. It’s time for everyone to band together to ensure worker rights are put at the heart of this tournament.”
Note to editors:
- The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is an international NGO that tracks the human rights impacts (positive and negative) of more than 10,000 companies across nearly 200 countries. We seek responses from companies when concerns are raised by civil society.
- The World Cup Parallel Portal: A centralised database bringing together relevant information on World Cup-related projects (stadiums, hotels infrastructure, etc.), contractors, sponsors, national football associations and allegations of labour abuse against migrant workers in Qatar. Activists, civil society and the media can use the platform as a resource to find information relating to the human rights impacts of the World Cup.
- Increased recruitment in Qatar’s hotels:
- By the end of 2022, Qatar’s hotel market is predicted to increase by 50% to over 44,000 hotel rooms staffed by workers—mainly from South Asia, Southeast Asia.
- Four brands (Accor, Ascott, Minor and Radisson) anticipated increasing recruitment ahead of the World Cup and disclosed figures on scale.
- Accor’s hotel workers will increase by an average of 5% from October until the end of the tournament.
- Ascott and Minor described recruitment increasing by 45%.
- Radisson described increasing staffing at its Doha property by 400 permanent and temporary recruits between June and October 2022.
- IHG expected its hotels in Qatar to recruit additional workers, but did not specify by how much.
- More information on recruitment risks and fees paid by workers can be found on p7 of the report.
- Our 2021 hotel survey findings can be found here. Worker testimonies from 2021 is also available in the report.
- Press release archive for our Qatar World Cup work.
- BWH Hotel Group subsequently submitted a response to the survey on 12 July 2022.
Media contact: Priyanka Mogul (London-based), Media Officer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, +44 (0) 7880 956239, [email protected]