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First Dutch law in Business and Human Rights

27 May 2019

On 14 May 2019 the Senate adopted the Child Labour Due Diligence Bill (Wet zorgplicht kinderarbeid). This bill represents the first Dutch law in the area of Business and Human Rights. The bill is similar to the French ‘Devoir de Vigilance’ and the English ‘Modern Slavery Act’, but is more narrow in scope and contains more severe sanctions.

A brief summary of the bill:

  • The bill introduces an obligation for enterprises to conduct due diligence related to child labour throughout the entire supply chain to determine whether there is a reasonable presumption that child labour was involved in their products and services;
  • The bill is applicable to all enterprises that sell goods and render services to the Dutch market, therefore the bill also covers foreign enterprises as well as enterprises that only operate online;
  • Enterprises must submit a statement to the regulatory authority declaring that they have carried out the required due diligence. In this statement the enterprise should also declare that it will undertake efforts to address the issue of child labour. To that end, the enterprise has to adopt and execute an action plan. The requirements that the action plan will have to adhere to will be determined by General Administrative Order (Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur). The enterprise that has fulfilled these obligations has ‘exercised due diligence’;
  • Being party to one of the Agreements promoting International Responsible Business Conduct it is considered to be an indication that the enterprise is exercising due diligence;
  • The regulatory authority will publish the statements on a website as well as in a public registry;
  • Any person or legal entity whose interests have been affected by non-compliance by an enterprise can submit a complaint with the regulatory authority;
  • The regulatory authority can impose sanctions for non-compliance, which exist of a binding instruction and consequently an administrative fine. The director under whose leadership the enterprise has been fined (at least) twice in five years may face criminal prosecution;
  • The bill is expected to come into force on 1 January 2022.

Do you have questions about this bill? The Business and Human Rights practice group will gladly be of assistance. Please contact Martijn Scheltema or Claire Huijts.