Why every business needs a child safeguarding policy

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By Carolyn Wincer, 1st November 2021

Travelife for Accommodation explains why all businesses need to think about child safeguarding and how to get started with a strategy.

Even if your business does not recruit or work with anyone under the age of 18, it is important to have a child safeguarding strategy. The exploitation and abuse of children is prolific in every corner of the globe and across all socio-economic groups. Each time a business decides to be proactive in this area, they are contributing to the health, safety and well-being of children everywhere. In this article we explain how to get started with taking action to keep children safe.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that around 152 million children are in child labour, almost 1 in 10 children worldwide, with 73 million of those in hazardous work.

Global Estimates of Child Labour: Results and trends, 2012–2016

Assess your risks and areas of influence

The best strategy will be based on specific risks in your location and industry sector, and will involve consultation with relevant NGOs or law enforcement. Before you look into that, it is a good idea to review your operations and sphere of influence in order to assess where your risks are, and where you might have the most influence in terms of keeping children safe.

Your operations

Even if you don’t hire anyone under the age of 18, it is important to factor in any children on work experience, internships or volunteering. At a minimum you should be following local laws regarding the employment of minors, but you should also ensure that you are not doing anything that could impact their education, health (including access to healthcare) or general well-being. This includes being mindful of exposure to traumatic or inappropriate situations. 

If there are no local laws covering minors in your country, then make sure you are respecting the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child along with ILO (International Labour Organisation) guidelines.

Business travel

Sadly, the travel industry is sometimes used by criminals engaged in child trafficking and exploitation, especially hotels. For that reason, at Travelife we require that all of the accommodation providers we certify have a child safeguarding policy and provide regular training to their staff. If you have staff that travel, it is wise to make sure they are trained about how to identify and report signs of exploitation and abuse they might see whilst they are travelling.

Your local area

Think about children in your local area that your business could influence or even observe. Are there homeless children in the neighbourhood? Is there a school nearby or is your premises on a route where children walk to or from school, or where minors simply like to hang out? Children are more vulnerable when they are alone, so consider how your business can keep them safe then discuss this with an expert in the field from a relevant local NGO, school or government agency to find out their recommendations. If no such local organisation exists then a good place to start is with a reputable NGO such as ECPAT, a global organisation working to end the exploitation of children or NSPCC, a UK charity working in the same field. Both offer a wealth of online resources.

Your suppliers

We would encourage you to have a blanket statement or contract addendum for all of your suppliers that covers human exploitation (see our blog about sustainable procurement for more information) and that you include this in any tenders you issue. You should also review your supply chain for high-risk industry sectors where child exploitation is more common, such as child labour used in laundry, agriculture, fishing or manufacturing. If you have identified high-risk areas, consider taking additional action such as strict contract clauses stating that agreements will be terminated if you suspect that the supplier is engaged in these activities, or asking suppliers to sign statements that warrant they do not engage in these practices, nor procure their own supplies from companies that do.

Develop a policy and plan

Having a child safeguarding policy in place sends a strong message to your suppliers, your staff and your community. As discussed earlier, we strongly recommend you consult with local experts before you develop a strategy, but at a minimum it should cover the following:

A written statement of commitment to safeguarding children that includes a clear zero tolerance approach to child abuse and exploitation, and how you will enforce that. This should be communicated to staff and suppliers.

Regular staff and contractor training on how to identify and report signs of child exploitation and abuse, along with the high-risk areas they may face. 

Specific details about how people can report child abuse, such as the phone number of local police, should be made easily and readily available to all of your staff and contractors.

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