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13 Jul 2022

Wake-up call: Exploitative recruitment risk to migrant workers in Qatar's World Cup hotels

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Ahead of the Qatar World Cup 2022 kick-off in November, with its accompanying influx of an estimated one million visitors, recruitment is ramping up at astonishing speed. So too are the implications of this hiring surge for the plight of migrant workers staffing Qatar’s hotels. Research has shown the payment of recruitment fees by migrant workers is one of the region’s single largest drivers of abuse, yet our research found 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.

We invited 30 hotel brands to respond to six questions on: the scale and scope of their operations in Qatar and during the World Cup; their commitment to the Employer Pays Principle; their human rights due diligence processes; and, fee payments. These 30 brands represent over 115 hotel properties in Qatar – all of which will be completely booked out come November.

Fourteen brands responded and since our 2021 survey was conducted, transparency in the industry has increased with 10 brands disclosing at least one recruitment agency or labour supplier and four disclosing uncovering instances of fee payments. Encouragingly, nine brands disclosed conducting worker interviews during recruitment, although only a small number uncovered fee payment, suggesting interviewers may fail to properly account for the imbalance of power between employers and workers.

As a general matter, progress made by hotel brands in undertaking due diligence of recruitment agencies and monitoring business partners’ recruitment standards has been modest. Brands' responses revealed limited understanding of their responsibilities to all workers who wear their uniforms or the complexities of recruitment risk. Answers demonstrated a reliance on contracts to ensure compliance with standards after agencies have already been hired, rather than proactive due diligence, which would help identify and mitigate these risks to workers upfront.

We invited FIFA and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy to respond to the report; FIFA and the Supreme Committee's responses can be read here and here, respectively. Ahead of the report publication, non-responding company BWH Hotel Group provided a survey response on 12 July 2022.

Recommendations (available in full within the briefing):

  • Increase transparency through annual reporting;
  • Improve due diligence and monitoring of business partners; and
  • Commit to remediation for workers.
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.
Isobel Archer, Gulf Programme Manager

Key findings

  • Transparent remediation for abuse 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 and the costs of recruitment are borne by the employer. Although most other brands claimed to have a policy compliant with the EPP, none provided evidence for this.
  • 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.
  • Brands have increased direct engagement with workers to uncover fee payment. Nine brands said workers were interviewed at least once during recruitment, compared with just three hotel brands in 2021. However, only four disclosed uncovering fee payments, despite the prevalence of the practice. These findings together suggest most hotels brands' interview processes need strengthening to ensure workers who cite fear and intimidation are able to give voice to their recruitment experiences, including the payment of illegal fees.

Explore more

Survey responses

Read responses from brands surveyed for this and previous reports

Additional company comments

Read further disclosure from the industry

Checked Out: Migrant worker abuse in Qatar's World Cup luxury hotels

Read our 2021 report into worker welfare in Qatar's hotels