The jig is up.
The non-profit organization Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) is revising its approach to social compliance certification in an effort to tackle the long-standing issue of working hours.
According to WRAP, current social compliance programs place a maximum—usually, whatever limit is prescribed by local law—on the number of hours that employees can work in a given week. But this has proved to be a difficult component to audit, as many factories doctor their records to reflect whatever number they are being assessed against.
“The resulting set of multiple books is a standing joke in the industry and has the further deleterious effect of casting doubt on any assessment of whether workers are being paid properly, since wage calculations are almost always going to be based on the number of hours worked,” Avedis Seferian, president and CEO at WRAP, said in a statement.
To that end, the organization has revised its “12 Production Principles” and introduced criteria that allow factories that meet certain conditions to qualify for a standard, one-year certification, even if they are not yet fully compliant with whatever limit is set by local lawmakers.
As of January 1, 2016, the conditions are as follows:
• Factories need to be fully transparent about their working hours
• They need to ensure those hours are all being worked voluntarily, in conditions that protect worker safety and health
• All employees need to be compensated fully in accordance with WRAP’s “Principle on Compensation and Benefits”
• Factories need to show progress, from one audit to the next, toward meeting the working hour requirements in local law
In order to satisfy the final condition, factory management will be required to implement a “Working Hours Action Plan” to establish reduction targets to be achieved over the course of their certification cycle.
“The goal is to facilitate actual progress by identifying root causes of excessive working hours and addressing them, instead of merely masking the problem through double books,” Seferian continued. “WRAP envisions this being a very factory-specific process and intends to work with each of them on a case-by-case basis.”