Foreign Contract Workers and Recruitment

Protecting foreign workers.

Gap Jeans label

As described in our Code of Vendor Conduct, the fundamental rights and freedoms articulated in the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work must be respected by facilities that recruit or employ foreign contract workers. Gap Inc. maintains that facilities that recruit or employ foreign contract workers (FCWs) shall ensure that these workers are treated fairly and on an equal basis with its local workers. Migrant workers shall not be subject to any form of forced, compulsory, bonded or indentured labor. All work must be voluntary, and workers must be free to terminate their employment at any time, without penalty. Further, our approach to foreign contract workers and the repayment of recruitment fees and related costs is aligned with Impactt’s Standards for Repayment of Migrant Worker Recruitment Fees. While our own policy on recruitment fees is already aligned with Impactt’s standards, we are now exploring how we can support their adoption across our sector.

Migrant workers (or their family members) shall not be threatened with denunciation to authorities to coerce them into taking up employment or preventing them from voluntarily terminating their employment, at any time, without penalty.

In addition, as part of our Code of Vendor Conduct, Gap Inc. requires suppliers to hold direct employment contracts and agreements with all contract workers as a way to protect rights of vulnerable workers. While very few factories in our supply chain use contracted labor, this policy is in place so that our suppliers have a direct relationship with contract workers rather than just their recruiting agencies. The section of our COVC detailing our Foreign Contract Worker Requirements can be found here.

In 2018, we conducted a risk assessment to further understand where foreign contract workers are employed in upstream facilities, particularly at the fabric mill level, where we know foreign contract workers are often prevalent.  Details on our efforts to support foreign contract workers employed in fabric mills in Taiwan can be found here.

Within our COVC, we have incorporated an extensive list of procedures and standards in relation to the treatment and employment of foreign contract workers. Our COVC states that facilities shall not discriminate, intimidate, control passports or misuse contracts or recruiting fees and paperwork as they relate to migrant and foreign workers. We also amended our requirements on employment of foreign contract workers to ensure due diligence of recruitment agencies before contracts are made with them, and we regularly assess their existing recruitment agencies on their legal and ethical recruitment practices. Our Supplier Sustainability team tracks these procedures to ensure that these workers are treated fairly and on an equal basis with local workers.

As described in our COVC, facilities are expected to use recruitment agencies only under the following conditions: 

  • The agency is licensed by the home country government, and, where applicable, the host country government.
  • A written contract exists between the facility and the recruitment agency that clearly defines all hiring practices.
  • The recruitment agency discloses all the information regarding the use of any subcontractors, sub-agents or any individual for recruiting workers for the facility.
  • The facility (including its employees and representatives) does not accepts any reimbursements, kickbacks or other amounts from the recruitment agency or other person involved in the recruiting process.

Our Supplier Sustainability team audits to determine whether our policies and standards are followed. Gap Inc.’s Foreign Contract Workers policy states: “The facility shall pay all fees and costs payable to the host government for the documentation of FCWs’ employment in the host country, including any levies, fees for work permit, fees for renewing work documents. The facility shall not at any point deduct from wages, charge workers or otherwise accept reimbursements to recoup these fees. The facility or the recruitment agency shall not collect from FCWs a deposit or bond or withhold part of FCWs’ earnings at any point of their employment.” 

The FCW policy also prohibits recruitment agencies from charging FCWs any illegal fees and/or fees payable to the host government, such as levy, legal work document fees, and fees for renewing work documents. 

In cases where it has been found that recruitment fees have been paid by workers, we require and verify that the affected workers are reimbursed.

To clarify this requirement, we:

  • Conduct training sessions for our suppliers to provide them with a comprehensive understanding of the issue, our requirements, and how they are expected to manage the employment status of any employees that are FCWs.
  • Our teams conduct outreach to workers employed as FCWs to get a better understanding of the cost incurred by them to attain employment. This provides our Supplier Sustainability team with an estimate of what amount we require the employer to reimburse.

Of all facilities active as of the end of fiscal year 2020, only a few employed foreign contract workers, including 3 in Jordan, where we partnered with Better Work and the World Bank to help provide employment opportunities in the garment sector to Syrian refugees.

  • In Jordan, where ILO Better Work conducts assessments of our suppliers’ factories, we have aligned this requirement - during their assessments they assess compliance against their standard and will cite any violations in their report. Better Work has also worked with the Government of Jordan and other brands to develop a standardized Unified Worker Contract, which has detailed terms of employment information in the local language of the worker. This contract is provided to the worker before he or she leaves his home country for employment.

In cases where a local contractor or hiring agent may be involved in the hiring of domestic migrant workers, the cost is borne by the employer and not the worker.