Compating forced labour
Forced labour refers to a situation where a person has not voluntarily offered themselves for work but is forced into it under a threat of penalty. Forced labour is a serious issue throughout the world.
Prohibition of products made with forced labour on the EU market
On 14 September 2022, the European Commission submitted a proposal for a regulation that would ban the sale of products made with forced labour on the EU market. According to the Commission, it is unacceptable that goods produced by people who have been threatened or forced to work are sold in European shops. This is the first EU-level regulation to ban products made with forced labour. The regulation would apply to all economic operators regardless of their size or form and both to products manufactured in the EU and imported products.
Authorities would request companies to report on efforts to prevent forced labour
Under the proposal, national authorities in the Member States, which will be separately assigned, would take a risk-based enforcement approach to ensure companies comply with the regulation. To carry out its tasks, the competent authority would use information from databases or submissions of information by third parties. The competent authorities can also request information from other authorities.
On the basis of this information, the authority could ask a company to provide information on its efforts to prevent and stop forced labour related to the product in question. The due diligence processes implemented by companies in their supply chains could have an effect on the authorities’ assessment. If the authority deems that the information submitted by a company is insufficient and that the product involves a risk of forced labour, the authority will start a more detailed investigation to assess the risks involved.
If, following the investigation, the authority concludes that the company has violated the regulation, the authority can impose a prohibition on placing the products on the market, and order the company to withdraw and destroy the products in question. The burden of proof that a company has violated the regulation would lie with the competent authority, and decisions made by the competent authority would include the right of appeal.
Commission's tools to help companies and authorities meet their obligations
The proposal contains a number of measures that will help companies in their efforts to identify forced labour in supply chains. The Commission plans to provide guidelines to companies and authorities to make the regulation more effective and to ensure its uniform application. The guidelines would include advice on the due diligence obligation related to forced labour, information on the risk indicators for forced labour, and a list of publicly available information sources relevant to the implementation of the regulation. With the help of external expertise, the Commission would also establish a database on the risks of forced labour in different geographic areas and products.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs organised a stakeholder consultation on the proposed regulation on 29 September 2022. The Government submitted a Union communication on the matter to Parliament on 10 November 2022. EU-level discussion of the Commission’s proposal will continue in the European Parliament and between the Member States in the Council of the European Union.
- Laura Pätsi, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 295 047 276
- Nadine Hellberg-Lindqvist, Chief Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 295 047 023
Commission press release, 14 September 2022: Commission moves to ban products made with forced labour on the EU market
Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment press release, 21 September 2022: EU wants to ban products made with forced labour on the EU market
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment press release, 10 November 2022: Government submits to Parliament its position on the proposed EU-wide ban of products made with forced labour