Are you working for inadequate wages in poor or unhealthy conditions? Has your employer threatened you or union members for speaking out, or prevented or discouraged unionisation altogether? The OECD Guidelines may help you fight for your labour rights.

What the OECD Guidelines say about worker’s rights

The OECD Guidelines calls on businesses to respect the rights of all workers – not just workers who are employed directly by the business. This means companies must respect the rights of workers working in the whole supply and value chain, and even of informal workers like homeworkers. You can use the OECD Guidelines to demand that companies:

  • Respect all workers’ rights, including to establish and join a trade union and collectively bargain.
  • Work to eradicate forced labour and child labour from their operations.
  • Do not discriminate against workers.
  • Maintain the highest standards of workplace health and safety.
  • Prioritise hiring local workers.
  • Give reasonable notice to workers when considering decisions with major employment effects like collective lay-offs or dismissals.
  • Provide training for up- or re-skilling of workers when undergoing just transition to greener technologies, or undergoing changes due to digitalisation or automatisation.
  • Refrain from disciplinary action or reprisals against worker or trade union representatives protesting or reporting poor company practices.


To ensure that the Guidelines’ standards on workers’ rights are interpreted in the strongest possible way, workers receiving inadequate wages should show how the wages do not meet a collectively bargained standard, or the International Labour Organisation’s standards of an adequate living wage. If a company offers better wages and employment conditions to workers in one part of its operations but not others, workers can expose these problematic differences. To encourage special attention to marginalised or vulnerable workes such as woman and racial or cultural minorities, workers should also use provisions from the Human Rights chapter, which call for special attention to individuals at heightened risk of harm.

Read the text

  • Chapter V (Employment and Industrial Relations): paragraphs 1, 4, 5, and 6; commentaries 54, 56-60, and 64

Additional important information

What are the OECD Guidelines?

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct (OECD Guidelines) are recommendations from governments to companies on how to act responsibly. The OECD Guidelines set non-binding standards for responsible business conduct across a range of issues important to communities, such as human rights, workers rights, and the environment, and also cover issues such as corruption and taxation.

Governments that follow the OECD Guidelines must establish a non-judicial complaints body called a National Contact Point for Responsible Business Conduct to promote the Guidelines and handle complaints about harmful business activity. The Guidelines set good standards for all companies, but complaints can only be filed against two types of companies operating across borders:

  1. multinational enterprises headquartered in a country that follows the OECD Guidelines, or
  2. multinational enterprises operating in a country that follows the OECD Guidelines.

How can you use the OECD Guidelines?

Civil society can use the Guidelines to:

  • Raise community awareness about company standards.
  • Talk to companies to demand better conduct.
  • File complaints when companies fall below the standards.
  • Advocate for strong laws and policies on corporate responsibility.

 Further resources