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German companies that violate human rights abroad to be fined up to 800,000 euros

Germany will fine companies whose foreign subsidiaries do not respect human rights, a bill passed by the government on Wednesday said, according to AFP sources.

German groups with more than 1,000 employees will have the obligation of constant vigilance and will be able to be fined with 100,000 to 800,000 euros even for deviations from suppliers. Sanctions can go up to 2% of turnover for those with annual revenues of over 400 million euros.

An authority under the Berlin Ministry of Economy will be able to ban access to public markets for up to three years from companies that break the law.

The normative act would enter into force on January 1, 2023 for companies with over 3,000 employees and from the beginning of 2024 for those with over 1,000.

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The text was negotiated in recent months by the Minister of Labor, the Social Democrat Hubertus Heil, with the Minister of Economy, the Conservative Peter Altmaier, who is skeptical about the project, criticized by the business environment.

Finance Minister Olaf Schoz expressed his satisfaction on Wednesday: “In the future, it is clear: Made in Germany must always keep human rights in mind.”

As part of the duty of care, German companies must monitor both their own production units and those of their suppliers, analyze possible shortcomings that are brought to their attention and take corrective action if the problems prove to be real. However, there will be no “obligation of success”, but only an “obligation of means”, and companies will not automatically respond in civil matters.

Non-governmental organizations and trade unions can go to German courts on behalf of victims of abuse.

According to the World Labour Organisation, 152 million children in the world are forced to work and 25 million people are forced to work.