Challenge Topic

Labour standards

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Employee conditions within the private security providers: ensuring high labour standards

Good Practices

Ensure the risk assessment includes an analysis of the private security industry, specific companies’ track record in labour rights, the labour environment, national labour laws and private security regulation

(see Private security within risk and impact assessment – Working with Private Security Providers) and Local procurement – Working with Private Security).

During the bidding process, pay special attention to the following aspects as part of the award criteria

(see Selecting private security providers: assessing quality and cost considerations within Bids and contracts – Working with Private Security Providers).

  • Analyse employment conditions, including pay and remuneration (as well as if and how these are linked to performance), benefit packages, working conditions, hours of shifts worked, supervisory structure, etc.  
  • Check whether staff receive training on human rights, international humanitarian law (in situations of armed conflict), use of force and firearms, crowd management, conflict-diffusion techniques, apprehension or restraint of individuals and other skills.
  • Assess private security provider policies and practices, including those relating to labour and employment policy, human rights policy, security policy, due diligence and risk assessment practices, disciplinary procedures, health and safety policy, equal opportunities policy, gender-sensitive policies related to equality, prevention of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, provision of protective gear (including those adapted for women) and policies on protection of human rights defenders.
  • Ensure the private security provider has adequate human resource management, including performance management and vetting systems.
  • Verify the existence and effectiveness of external and internal accountability mechanisms.
  • Examine whether there is sufficient insurance to cover risks related to the provision of security services. This includes insurance for employees, as well as insurance to cover the costs of adequately addressing grievances, complaints and adverse impacts on community members.  
  • Check references from similar clients, in particular from those operating in the local area.

Consider including clauses in the contract requiring the private security provider to do the following.  

  • Comply with the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and relevant and applicable labour laws. All of these should be reflected in company policies and procedures (e.g. recruitment and training) and adopted by the private security provider as a condition of procurement eligibility. These policies should also be included explained in all relevant materials, including personnel contracts and onboarding documents.
  • Communicate contract terms and conditions clearly to all personnel in a format and language that is accessible to them. Provide all employees with a written contract of employment setting out the terms and conditions of their employment before the start of the assignment. In situations of limited literacy, also provide this information in other formats, such as videos. Also ensure this information is available in the local language.
  • Instruct personnel about applicable legal frameworks and guidelines on ethical conduct.5
  • Inform personnel of all risks associated with their employment.
  • Organise the work of private security personnel, in particular regarding overtime, night work and weekend work. This should be done in compliance with international norms that specify the maximum overtime allowed and, where national laws differ or are silent about this, the private security provider should attempt to align with the lowest overtime threshold.
  • Pay fair salaries and benefits (considering international requirements/emerging norms about fair wages) to all employees in a timely fashion, ensuring that different wages and benefits to various nationalities reflect responsibilities and working conditions. Ensure pay differences are based on merit, responsibility and national economic differential, and are not discriminatory for those of different demographic backgrounds (e.g. gender, ethnicity, race, religion).6
  • Keep in mind that some labour /human resource policies may seem non-discriminatory on paper but can be discriminatory in practice. Promotions based on merit and education may not take into account the way that certain persons may have been systematically excluded from pursuing higher education based on their gender/race/ethnic identity/etc. Excluding certain groups from higher management positions may exacerbate grievances and drive conflict. Companies should take these differences into account and enact mitigating measures to ensure equitable opportunities.
  • Provide security guards with personal protective equipment (e.g. bulletproof vests, safety vests, torches). Ensure equipment is also appropriate or adapted for female staff.
  • Make provisions for health insurance and life insurance. Ensure adequate insurance for any other risks employees can potentially face in the course of their work.
  • Avoid retaining the personal travel documents of their personnel. When retaining these documents is unavoidable (e.g. for administrative processing or other legitimate purposes), ensure they are held for the shortest possible period of time necessary. , par. 54 and 67
  • Explicitly prohibit private security providers and their personnel from soliciting or accepting bribes and/or anything of value in exchange for not complying with human rights law, international humanitarian law, national laws, company codes and/or any other standards.
  • Have a clear policy regarding the use of third-party labour brokers in order to avoid the risk of unethical recruitment and forced labour. Ensure that labour brokers do not charge recruitment fees or retain travel documents. Provide clear and consistent information about the location, terms of employment and any associated travel costs and how these are to be paid.
  • Respect the right of personnel to terminate their own employment.7
  • Include a certain number or percentage of women in deployed security teams after taking into account the security context, as well as the needs of and interactions with the local population.

Consider providing performance incentives for private security guards, in consideration of staff retention.

  • Bear in mind the risk that in certain situations, cash performance incentives lead to more demands and internal tensions among guards.

Ensure that grievance mechanisms are accessible to company staff, private security personnel and local communities

(see Human right abuses by private security providers: setting up procedures and policies to ensure adequate responses within Human rights abuses – Working with Private Security Providers).

Allow individuals and communities to report any abuse anonymously.

  • At the very least, company grievance mechanisms should be accessible in multiple formats in order to allow for anonymous reporting of human rights abuses. These may include:

A ‘report abuse’ hotline, accessible either via phone or SMS.  

A secure email address that is solely accessible by a trusted monitor.  

Tip boxes with clear instructions posted above them, located in areas where individuals have unobserved access to the boxes and can drop in anonymous notes, tips or other information. These should have clear instructions posted above them.

‘Persons of trust’ selected by employees that can bring concerns to the company or private security provider management on the behalf of employees. This can also be done via existing mechanisms such as unions and/or employee associations, if applicable.

A community office where complainants can report their claims in person. Ensure that this is easily accessible to all potential claimants. If it is clear that certain members of the potentially affected community are not able to access the office, mobile teams should be sent to engage with the community and carry out the grievance process in their location.

  • Establish whistle-blower protection mechanisms that guarantee protection of sources.
  • Appoint particular ‘focal points’ in the company hierarchy who are directly responsible for redressing problems. This should include, for example, human resources staff and at least one dedicated member of management who is responsible for handling grievances.

Case Studies and Fact Sheets

Risk mitigation: hiring private security providers which are certified by the International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA) or another industry standard

View Resource

The use of force by private security providers

View Resource