TESS Glossary

Search below to find the definitions of some TESS-related terminology.


Bonded labour

Bonded labour or debt bondage is a specific form of forced labour, in which the element of compulsion is derived from debt. When individuals are forced to work to pay off their debts, earned or inherited. Source: ILO. A person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan – often the loan provided to cover the recruitment fee and travel to take up the role. The person is then tricked or trapped into working for very little or no pay, forced to work to repay debts their employer says they owe, and not allowed to work for anyone else. Debts may be passed onto the next generation.


Child labour

The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It includes hazardous work under the age of 18, work performed that interferes with completing compulsory schooling (typically age 14-15), or work that hinders vocational training. The worst forms of child labour (under age 18) include slavery, prostitution, illicit activities (e.g., drug trafficking), and work that “is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children” (UN ILO Convention No. 182). Source: ILO.

Code of Conduct

A Code of Conduct in this context defines labor standards that aim to achieve decent and humane working conditions based on internationally accepted good labor practices. (Included under Codes).

Code of Labour Practice

It aims to establish a minimum list of standards that ought to be included in all codes of conduct covering labour practices. They include practical guidelines that aim to achieve decent and humane working conditions based on internationally accepted good labour practices. They are not legally binding instruments and are not intended to replace the provisions of national laws or regulations, or accepted standards. (Included under Codes).


International labour standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO's constituents (governments, employers and workers) which set out basic principles and rights at work. Conventions are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member states. If it is ratified, a convention generally comes into force for that country one year after the date of ratification. Ratifying countries commit themselves to applying the convention in national law and practice and reporting on its application at regular intervals. The ILO provides technical assistance if necessary. In addition, representation and complaint procedures can be initiated against countries for violations of a convention they have ratified. (Included under Regulations). Source: ILO.



Decisions are laws relating to specific cases and directed to individual or several Member States, companies or private individuals. They are binding upon those to whom they are directed. (included under Regulations). Source: EU law.


A declaration means a formal statement, proclamation, or announcement. It is an expression of the fundamental values which are shared by all members of the international community. In this context they can have a profound influence on the development of international human rights law. (Included under Guidelines/Guidance). Source; ILO.


Directives lay down certain results that must be achieved but each Member State is free to decide how to transpose directives into national laws. An EU Directive is a form of legislation that is ‘directed’ at a Member States. It will set out the objective or policy which needs to be attained. The Member States must then pass the relevant domestic legislation to give effect to the terms of the Directive within a time frame set in the directive. Directives are often used to help enforce free trade, free movement and competition rules. They can also be used to establish common social policies, and thus can affect employment issues, labour law, working conditions, and health and safety. They can therefore they can significantly affect businesses. (Included under Regulations). Source: EU law.


Forced labour

Forced labour refers to situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as accumulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities. Forced labour, contemporary forms of slavery, debt bondage and human trafficking are closely related terms though not identical in a legal sense. Most situations of slavery or human trafficking are however covered by ILO's definition of forced labour. Source: ILO



They provide voluntary principles for responsible business conduct in areas such as employment and industrial relations, human rights, environment, information disclosure, combating bribery, consumer interests, science and technology, competition, and taxation. In this context they are principles that form a comprehensive, global reference point for understanding the respective duties and responsibilities of States and business for addressing business impacts on human rights. Source: ILO.


Human Rights

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists 30 articles which define those rights, including that ‘all humans are born free and equal…have a right to life, liberty and security of person…shall not be held in slavery or servitude…everyone has a right to leave any country…everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment’. Source: UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human trafficking

An offence of human trafficking requires that a person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person with a view to that person being exploited. The offence can be committed even where the victim consents to the travel. This reflects the fact that a victim may be deceived by the promise of a better life or job or may be a child who is influenced to travel by an adult. In addition, the exploitation of the potential victim does not need to have taken place for the offence to be committed. It means that the arranging or facilitating of the movement of the individual was with a view to exploiting them for sexual exploitation or non-sexual exploitation. Source: Modern Slavery Act 2015 Guidance.


Labour Rights

Labor rights refer to a broader category of issues than trafficking or modern slavery. These are encapsulated into the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This commits Member States to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories, whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions. These categories are: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.


Modern slavery

This is a broad term used to encompass the offences of slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. The term extends to slavery-like practices such as debt bondage, sale or exploitation of children and forced or servile marriage. While varied in nature, all involve one person depriving another person of their liberty, in order to exploit them for personal or commercial gain. Source: Modern Slavery Act 2015 Guidance.



International labour standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO's constituents (governments, employers and workers) which set out basic principles and rights at work. Recommendations serve as non-binding guidelines. In many cases, a convention lays down the basic principles to be implemented by ratifying countries, while a related recommendation supplements the convention by providing more detailed guidelines on how it could be applied. Recommendations can also be autonomous, i.e. not linked to any convention. (Included under Guidelines/Guidance). Source: ILO.


Regulations have binding legal force throughout every Member State and enter into force on a set date in all the Member States. They are immediately applicable and enforceable by law in all Member States. As good practice, Member States issue national legislation that defines the competent national authorities, inspection and sanctions on the subject matter. (Directives and Conventions have been included under Regulations). Source: EU law.



Servitude is the obligation to provide services that is imposed by the use of coercion and includes the obligation for a ‘serf’ to live on another person’s property and the impossibility of changing his or her condition. Source Modern Slavery Act 2015 Guidance.


Slavery, in accordance with the 1926 Slavery Convention, is the status or condition of a person over whom all or any of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised. Since legal ‘ownership’ of a person is not possible, the key element of slavery is the behaviour on the part of the offender as if he/she did own the person, which deprives the victim of their freedom. Source: Modern Slavery Act 2015 Guidance.