Information on how to: establish safe and legal working and living conditions, and payment systems for workers


Improve conditions for workers in supply chains

establish safe and legal working/living conditions and payment systems 


  • Require suppliers to: 1) comply with relevant laws and uphold worker contracts with employers and recruitment agencies regarding working and living conditions and payment systems; 2) demonstrate that working conditions, living conditions, and payment systems for workers that meet buyer expectations.

  • Look for evidence that the two standards above are in place, and that policies and practices are communicated to workers in their own language. All relevant contracts should be compliant with national laws and the regional policies governing international labor recruitment; and all relevant buyer expectations are referenced for compliance purposes in supplier corporate policies, contracts, and employee orientation manuals/policy manuals. Buyer expectations may also be required to be posted in worksites. These should include the following. 



  • Ensure safe and legal working conditions, living conditions, and payment systems in own supply chains, and comply with relevant laws, codes of conduct, and worker contracts.

  • Ensure the following practices are in place and are being enacted uniformly and clearly. These should cover the following. 

  • Ensure there are clear communications channels and processes if workers have questions or concerns.

It is important for both buyers and employers to recognize that establishing and upholding safe and legal working and living conditions is a continual improvement process: information gathered from social audits/assessments, hotlines, grievance mechanisms, worker organizations, and collective bargaining channels should all feed back into improving conditions for workers.
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Improving working conditions can be a long-term or iterative process. 


Depending on the country and context where the labor risks are occurring, workers may be treated in a way that violates international expectations or corporate codes of conduct, yet may be the norm or not uncommon in the local context. Some labor practices may persist although they are technically in violation of national laws. Therefore, it can be helpful to triage labor issues and abuses into two categories:


1. Risks and abuses that are violations of national laws: These are generally easier to motivate suppliers to quickly rectify.


2. Risks and abuses that are not against national law, but are violations of buyer expectations for suppliers or codes of conduct: These may take more time and effort to rectify, depending on how clearly and consistently buyers hold suppliers to their codes of conduct.


Addressing violations of national laws requires a clear understanding of these laws (not just major laws but also amendments to major laws, ministerial regulations, inter-ministerial circulars, executive orders, declarations, and royal ordinances), which can change frequently and may only be released in the native language.  Therefore, it is often necessary to work in partnership with local experts proficient in local laws as well as international labor standards in order to provide practical and legally accurate technical assistance to suppliers aiming to improve labor conditions. 


What are the indicators for decent working and living conditions?
  • Working conditions

    • Basic rights, safety and dignities for workers in supply chains, including freedom of movement, freedom from discrimination, etc.

    • Working hours and days for workers in supply chains are transparent in employment contracts, and contracts are compliant with relevant laws and supplier standards.

    • Workers are provided appropriate benefits, including annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, and any other leave provided by national law. Paid national holidays should be clearly communicated to workers.


  • Living conditions

    • Living conditions are sanitary and secure, with no living hazards

    • Accommodation-related costs are transparent, documented in contracts, with payment that is separate from work salary payments and deductions

    • Workers have access to safe and affordable transportation to the workplace

    • There is no restriction of any basic rights or freedoms, including rights to freedom of movement, right to privacy, right to public assembly, and right to family


  • Payment systems

    • Timesheets, payslips, and pay-related documents are provided to workers and are in workers’ native language

    • Payments are not missing or late

    • Targets, bonuses, and incentives offered to workers do not lead to excessive or underpaid work

    • Wages and deductions are legal, transparent, and paid on time



Understand and comply with relevant national legal requirements for working and living conditions, and payment systems. Examples include:

  • Minimum wage

  • Benefits accorded to workers

  • Wages paid and overtime wages

  • Living conditions

  • Basic freedoms


Determine and comply with international expectations and corporate codes of conduct for working and living conditions, and payment systems. Work with on-the-ground providers to ensure that members of supply chains are upholding these expectations.

Supporting Resources:
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Integrating expectations into supplier codes of conduct
Companies should develop and communicate expectations regarding working, living conditions, and payment systems with suppliers via company policies and Supplier Codes of Conduct
Examples of how to integrate these expectations into company codes of conduct can be found below:  
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Global Social Compliance Programme: Reference tool on Social & Labour Management Systems for Suppliers: Chapter 5 - Translating strategy into effective policies and procedures
Monitor and verify conditions


  • Verify that suppliers comply with relevant laws and codes of conduct for working and living conditions, and ethical payment systems.


  • Provide documentation of compliance with relevant laws and codes of conduct for working and living conditions, and ethical payment systems.

supporting guidance
Learn about how to use worker engagement mechanisms to monitor and verify conditions in supply chains