We are witnessing a legal avalanche relating to business and human rights. Our Business and Human Rights Updates will keep you advised of initiatives of relevance to your business. We are also constantly chasing new tools to enable businesses to identify and effectively address potential harm to people and the environment. Ultimately, what protects people (and the planet) is also what best protects businesses.

December won't see an EU Sustainable Corporate Governance proposal | EU Council agrees mandate for negotiating a framework for adequate minimum wages and gender pay transparency | UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights and an ambition plan for UNGPS 10+  

  • The proposal for EU legislation on mandatory human rights due diligence has been delayed, again... 
    A couple of weeks ago, this  Update noted a further delay to the EU Commission's long anticipated proposal for Sustainable Corporate Governance legislation, including mandatory environmental and human rights due diligence. We now note that the proposal has been rejected a second time by the EU Regulatory Scrutiny Board. New rumours now suggest that it will not be published before the end of Q1 2022.
  • ... but on 6 December, the EU Council decided to start negotiations with the EU Parliament on two specific human rights based laws: adequate minimum wages and gender pay transparency 
    • On 28 October 2020, the EU Commission published a proposal for a Directive on adequate minimum wages in the EU for consideration by the EU Council and EU Parliament – which we now know will be negotiated with the aim of putting legislation in place. The purpose of the proposed Directive is to address in-work poverty within the EU in line with the right to "fair and just working conditions" set out in Article 31 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and, among others, "the right to fair wages that provide for a decent standard of living" set out in Principle 6 in the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Directive proposes a number of requirements of Member States, including the following which potentially have an immediate impact on businesses: (i) the enforcement of adequate minimum wages, through minimum wage regulation or collective bargaining agreements. Criteria for determining whether minimum wage levels are "adequate" include assessing whether they are fair in relation to the average wage distribution in the country and whether they provide for a decent standard of living for the worker; (ii) requiring mandatory terms in certain public procurement agreements to ensure adequate pay for workers performing under such agreements; (iii) strengthening the rights of workers who have not received adequate minimum wages to seek remediation, as well as ensuring protection from retaliation for those that do seek remediation; and (iv) "effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties" for employers who breach national legal requirements. The right to adequate minimum wages will apply to all "workers" as defined under EU law, i.e. including those who are "self-employed but fulfil the conditions characteristic of an employment relationship". The proposal also contains an important protection against so called "unjustified or disproportionate" salary deductions, such as for protection equipment and worker accommodation costs.
    • Earlier this year, this  Update took note of the EU Commission's ambitious draft proposal  dated 4 March on transparency legislation, to "help expose gaps and equip women with better tools to tackle pay discrimination". Both the EU Council and the EU Parliament have now agreed to negotiate that proposal with the aim of adopting new legislation on gender pay transparency. So, to be continued...
  • A special 10th anniversary of the UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights and a UNGPS 10+ ambition plan
    A special session of the UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights was held last week. The Forum celebrated its 10th anniversary and did so in memory of Professor John G. Ruggie, the extraordinary man behind the UNGPs, which we now know are a foundational tool for addressing major global challenges and transformation into a sustainable society. Foundational because they are brilliantly formulated and therefore remarkably effective when put to use. The key delivery of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights was the UNGPs 10+ Roadmap for the next decade of Business and Human Rights: Raising the Ambition, increasing the Pace. The Roadmap proposes prioritised efforts for the next ten years, some of which are specifically directed at business. Examples include: (i) making business respect for human rights a core element of just transition and sustainable development strategies; (ii) embedding human rights due diligence in corporate governance and business models; (iii) challenging business practices that are inconsistent with respect for people and the planet; and, in doing so, (iv) leveraging more from effective stakeholder engagement. Other key topics included regulatory progress, a business and human rights approach within tech legislation, human rights defenders, racism at work and preventing and remediating climate harm. For access to topics and discussion papers, check out this link.

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