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Implementing an Effective Worker Complaint Process

Updated: Jan 9

Increasingly legislation is requiring grievance mechanisms for global value chains. Effective grievance mechanisms are critical for worker safety, but implementing one can be challenging.


HRDD regulations, like the German Supply Chain and Due Diligence Act (LkSG) and the European Union's Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) have provided clear guidelines on complaints procedures.


These guidelines are all based on the UNGPs and OECD Guidelines, which require companies have effective grievance collection tools and access to remedy for all value chain stakeholders. UNGP provides guidance on effective grievance mechanisms from design, operation, and evaluation.


You can find out more about the guidance here and its explanatory addendum here.




What is a compliant and good complaints process?

Even though the different HRDD regulations have different requirements in the complaint process as they stemmed from the same guiding principles – the requirements below excerpted from the LkSG’s sections 8 and 9 with additional guidance provided by German's Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA) can be used as general complaint process requirements.


The CSDDD has not yet finalized nor implemented through national legislation. Check out our guidelines on CSDDD here.


General Requirements:

  • Every company must have a complaints procedure, and companies should ensure that their suppliers all have a complaints procedure, and their suppliers’ suppliers, etc.

  • The complaints procedure must be accessible by internal and external persons, including through the use of several different channels/mechanisms or one single tool

  • Coverage should include reports of human rights or environmental risks or violations

  • The scope of mechanisms must cover risks and violations from own company’s operations or their direct or indirect supply chain

  • Rules of the procedure should be published publicly.

These requirements can be satisfied by an internal procedure, participating in an equivalent external procedure, or combining internal and external complaints procedures.


The Objectives of an Effective Complaints Process

An effective complaints process should fulfill two objectives: to provide an early warning for issues before harm is caused and to provide quick and effective remedies for people impacted. While the UNGPs generally require effective grievance and remedy, recent HRDD laws seek to make buyers more responsible for their supply chains and add specific requirements for channels that workers and impacted people can use to report rights issues and risks.


In the case of LkSG, the administrator has been clear that the operational-level grievance mechanism of a supplier – the supplier’s own internal grievance mechanism – is not sufficient to satisfy the requirement that buyers have a complaints process. This has the potential to lead to complex situations in facilities with more than one HRDD buyer, and in general buyers and brands may benefit from seeking out collective or collaborative complaints mechanisms.


Distinguishing Complaints Processes, Grievance Mechanisms, and Whistleblower Lines

Complaints processes, operational-level grievance mechanisms, and whistleblower channels all connect aggrieved or impacted parties to communication channels that they can use to seek effective resolution of workplace issues.


HRDD complaints processes are accessible to stakeholders throughout the value chain, whereas traditional grievance mechanisms are internal to one company and its operations. Whistleblower protections also extend beyond one organization, but generally intend to protect reporters of potential illegal activities. These processes can be integrated if the target groups are able to access it, and appropriate resources and remedies (if applicable) are accessible.


  • Toys: Ethical Toy Program Worker Helpline

  • Textiles/clothing: Fair Wear Foundation Complaints Mechanism, RMG Sustainability Council Occupational Safety and Health Complaints Mechanism

  • Automotive: Pilot project sector dialogue: automotive industry

  • Jewellery: Responsible Jewellery Council Complaints Mechanism

  • Trade: Ethical Trading Initiative Alleged Code Violation Procedure

  • Employees’ rights: Fair Labor Association Third Party Complaints Process

  • Palm oil: Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

  • Minerals: Responsible Minerals Initiative Grievance Mechanism

Labor Solutions’ HRDD Starter Kit to simplify the Value Chain Complaints Process

Brands and buyers subject to HRDD laws (including LkSG or CSDDD) need a grievance or complaints procedure that covers all of their value chains. Those who are not part of a multi-stakeholder or cross-sectoral initiative need to consider scalable solutions that meet the HRDD requirements and connect supply chain partners effectively to ensure that issues are addressed.


With more than seven years of experience creating and deploying tech-driven and worker-focused supply chain solutions, our HRDD Starter Kit for brands, Labor Line, provides a user-friendly and accessible tool that satisfies the UNGPs and HRDD requirements.


From one dashboard your team can manage any report, question, or case that is submitted, track and tag progress to categorize common issues and find root causes, and create a documented trail of communication from investigation to resolution and remedy. With the analytical power of the WOVO Global Dashboard, your team will receive insights into the industry, geographic and supplier-specific risks, and the effectiveness over time of prevention and remedy efforts.


The requirements under different human rights due diligence and reporting legislation vary in specificity and intention, so will be necessary to look at each law as it relates to your company and operations and value chain. Contact us to discuss your specific needs and our team of experienced industry and human rights experts will help you find the solution that works for you.


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