Fundamental principles and rights at work

Issue paper on COVID-19 and fundamental principles and rights at work

For the millions of workers already in vulnerable situations, the COVID-19 crisis can have devastating consequences: their fundamental rights at work are under threat, pushing them and their families towards greater insecurity. Safeguarding and extending fundamental principles and rights at work will therefore be critical to the success of both immediate and longer-term responses to the crisis in the world of work.

At this moment of crisis, safeguarding the four fundamental principles and rights at work – the freedom to organize and bargain collectively, and the freedom from forced labour, child labour, and discrimination in employment and occupation – is more important than ever. These rights are not only at heightened risk from the crisis but also constitute the foundation for building back a better, more just world of work in its aftermath. Universal and inalienable human rights in and of themselves, they are also essential enablers of decent work and social justice. They are the starting point for a virtuous circle of effective social dialogue, better incomes and conditions for workers and employers, and formalizing the informal economy.