International Labour Standards (ILS) are legal instruments, drawn up by the ILO constituents (governments, employers and workers), that set out basic principles and rights at work. They are either Conventions, which are legally-binding international treaties that may be ratified by ILO member States, or Recommendations, which 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 can also be autonomous (not linked to any Convention).
These instruments are adopted at the International Labour Conference and member States are required to submit them to their competent authority (normally the parliament) for consideration. In the case of Conventions, this means consideration for ratification. Ratifying countries commit to applying the Convention in national law and practice and to reporting its application at regular intervals. Representation and complaint procedures can be initiated against countries for violations of a Convention they have ratified.
There are now more than 189 Conventions and 202 Recommendations, supported by a comprehensive system of supervision. The ILO considers that some 77 Conventions are up-to-date and suitable for promotion on a priority basis and for further ratification by member States. Others are deemed to be in need of revision or are obsolete.
The Employers’ position is that ILS, and in particular Conventions, should seek to address fundamental workplace issues and have a high impact. Conventions should be reserved for unchanging principles and for issues on which there exists a broad tripartite consensus that regulation at international level is necessary.