Stakeholder Consultation on Ratification by Ireland of the ILO Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation is seeking views from stakeholders and interested parties on the ratification by Ireland of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930.


The ILO is a United Nations agency which brings together governments, employers and workers representatives of 187 member States, to develop International Labour Standards, policies and programmes promoting decent work for all. It’s tripartite nature is unique in the UN system. Ireland is a full member of the ILO’s Governing Body for the period 2017-2020.

International Labour Standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO constituents that set out basic principles and rights at work. Instruments include:

  • Conventions, which are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member states.
  • Protocols, procedural devices for adding extra flexibility to a Convention or for extending a Conventions obligations. Protocols are also legally binding international treaties, but which, in the ILO context, do not exist independently since they are always linked to a Convention. Like Conventions, they are subject to ratification. They allow adaptation to changing conditions and they enable practical difficulties to be dealt with which have arisen since the Convention was adopted, thus making the Conventions more relevant and up to date. The ILO have five Protocols to date, including the Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention.
  • Recommendations are also international instruments but are not legally binding and serve as guidelines to help member States formulate their policy at a national level. Often, they supplement an existing convention by providing detailed guidelines for its implementation but they can also be adopted autonomously.

In June 2014, at the 103rd Session of the ILO International Labour Conference (ILC), the constituents adopted the Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention and an accompanying Recommendation. The Protocol supplements the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (C29), therefore only ILO member States, such as Ireland, that have ratified C29 can ratify the Protocol. 

The main purpose of the Protocol is to enhance efforts to eliminate modern forms of forced labour (such as trafficking for labour exploitation) by addressing implementation gaps in C29 with regards to the prevention of forced labour and the protection and compensation of its victims. 

The Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention is a legally binding treaty that requires ratification by a country to come into force. 

Key aspects of the Protocol

The Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention requires governments to take measures to tackle forced labour in all its forms.

It works on three main levels:

  • Protection – protecting victims from forced labour practices through legislation and labour inspection
  • Prevention – through education, due diligence and addressing root causes (such as poverty)
  • Remedy – through recovery and rehabilitation of all victims of forced or compulsory labour, as well as the provision of other forms of assistance and support.

National Context

Ireland recognises that forced labour undermines the principles of human rights. The State has a comprehensive suite of employment rights legislation and continues its efforts to eliminate human trafficking utilising the provisions of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, 2008 and the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013. The Amendment Act defines the term ‘forced labour’ in line with the definition set out in Article 2 of the ILO Convention No. 29 of 1930 on Forced Labour, which states:

“For the purposes of this Convention the term forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”

The Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Ireland sets out a broad-based prevention strategy. At Section 2.4.3 it sets out priority measures proposed to deal with trafficking for labour exploitation.

Victims of forced or compulsory labour can receive the protections afforded to victims of human trafficking under the National Referral Mechanism, have the same access to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as any other victims of crime and have the same access to legal redress as any other person with a legal grievance.

Further details on how Ireland meets the provisions of the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, are set out in the table attached, which compares the articles of the Protocol with national laws and policies. 

Ratification process

An ILO member State has no obligation to ratify a Convention or Protocol, but if it does ratify, it undertakes to implement the provisions of the Convention/Protocol and to report regularly to the ILO on its implementation. Reports are subject to review by a Committee of Experts that reports annually to the ILC on the degree of compliance of member States with respect to ratified Conventions and Protocols.

Ireland is committed to proceeding to ratification as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure all necessary legislative and administrative requirements under the Protocol are met. Ireland is a dualist State, Article 29.6 of the Constitution providing that international agreements have the force of law to the extent determined by the Oireachtas. It is essential, therefore, that the State is in a position to meet the obligations it assumes under the terms of an international agreement from the moment of its entry into force for Ireland.

The combination of existing legislation, along with key policy and programme initiatives outlined in Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Ireland, represents a set of measures aimed at preventing forced labour, protecting its victims and prosecuting perpetrators of this crime. Such measures conform to the Protocol's main provisions and it is not anticipated that supplementary legislation will be necessary for the ratification of this Protocol.

Further to consultations with relevant Government Departments and Agencies no legal impediments to ratification have as yet been identified.

This stakeholder consultation process is now intended to give interested parties a chance to provide their views on the proposed ratification by Ireland of the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention.

Responses to call for views

Views from stakeholders and interested parties on the proposed ratification of the Protocol are requested no later than close of business on Tuesday 11 December. Submissions should be marked “Ratification of the Forced Labour Protocol” and can either be emailed to or sent in hard copy to the ILO International Section, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Earlsfort Centre, Lower Hatch Street, Dublin 2, D02 PW01.

Further queries can also be made to

Responses may be made available on the website of the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation. Any material contained in responses which respondents do not wish to be made public in this way should be clearly identified as confidential in the submission.

Respondents should also be aware that responses may be disclosed by the Department following a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2014. Any information that is regarded as commercially sensitive should be clearly identified and the reason for its sensitivity stated. In the event of a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the Department will consult with respondents about information identified as commercially sensitive before deciding on such a request.

Any personal information which you volunteer to the Department will be treated with the highest standards of security and confidentiality strictly in accordance with the Data Protection Acts 1988 to 2018.

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Published by Workplace Regulation and Economic Migration

Topics: Workplace and Skills

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