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Setting standards for working hours: a pathway to decent work and human rights 

April 11, 2024

At ASC we find that among the wide range of human and labour rights issues that are included in our standards, one often stands out as more complex to implement and understand: working hours.  

Despite its seemingly straightforward nature, the complexities of setting working hour standards in aquaculture pose unique challenges that require careful consideration. 

Aquaculture work differs substantially from traditional office jobs with fixed hours. Like agriculture, it operates on the rhythm of production, dictated by factors like seasons and the life cycles of aquatic species. Added to this is the remoteness that characterises many aquaculture farms. Situated far from urban centres, these farms may face logistical hurdles to put in place protections for employees, such as communication and transport. 

This means that employees may find themselves:  

  • Working at odd hours, such as at sunrise for fish feeding;
  • Engaged in round-the-clock monitoring to ensure fish health and welfare; 
  • Working in shift patterns where they spend extended periods on-site before returning home, or; 
  • On-call for emergencies. 

A matter of human rights

Why does ASC believe that it is crucial to address these complexities and establish clear standards for working hours in aquaculture? 

First and foremost, it is a matter of human rights. The right to work under fair and equitable conditions is enshrined in international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) conventions 

ASC understands that every worker, whether on land or at sea, deserves protection, including reasonable working hours and adequate rest. Without clear guidelines, there is a risk of exploitation and overwork, which can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental well-being.  

Furthermore, exhausted and overworked employees are more prone to errors and accidents, jeopardising not only their own and their colleagues’ health and safety, but also the environment and the quality of seafood produced.  

By establishing clear standards for working hours, ASC safeguards the well-being of employees and promotes a healthy work-life balance.  

Collaborating to develop effective standards

So, what can ASC do to set working hour standards in aquaculture that protect employees’ rights, but that also permit farms to operate in an effective and productive way? 

We believe that understanding diverse perspectives is essential for developing effective standards. That’s why we are eager to hear from you, our stakeholders, regarding the clarity and appropriateness of the new ASC Farm Standard requirements related to working hours.  

The new requirements can be summarised as:  

  • Employees should not work more than 8 hours a day or 48 hours in a regular week, not counting breaks.  
  • There is flexibility to average work hours over a 17-week period, as long as the average stays at or below 48 hours a week. This practice is only allowed if:  
  • it complies with national laws and collective bargaining agreements, 
  • is clearly agreed upon in employee contracts, and 
  • measures are in place to protect employees’ health and safety.  
  • Overtime should not exceed 12 hours per week, on top of the regular working hours.  
  • Regardless of their shift pattern, employees must receive: 
  • at least one hour of break during an 8-hour workday, 
  • a minimum of 11 consecutive hours of rest within each 24-hour period, and 
  • at least 24 consecutive hours of rest within a 7-day period.  

Your chance to provide input 

We’d like to hear from you whether these requirements are feasible to implement and to audit, or any other thoughts you may have on them.  

You can do this by filling out the stakeholder consultation survey or emailing us at:  

Learn more

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