Adapting and Innovating Factory Services in response to COVID-19

8 Sep 2020

The approach prioritizes mitigating the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on factories and workers, taking into account national regulations and realities.

Better Work developed a policy that is applicable until l February 2021, contingent on the evolution of the pandemic. An updated policy will be published according to how the pandemic and situation in each country programme evolves. Decisions will be taken in consultation with our partners and constituents.

Guiding Principles

  1. The health and well-being of Better Work staff, factory managers and workers, and other partners is paramount. Better Work will follow ILO/UN policy and national health guidelines to help prevent further spread of the virus and will proactively assess risks as the pandemic evolves.
  2. The Better Work approach draws upon our proven suite of factory level tools and methodologies. Additionally, the service model incorporates flexible approaches that include virtual and hybrid (combined virtual-onsite) methods to ensure ongoing factory oversight and engagement.
  3. The programme’s focus is to support factories in becoming increasingly resilient to future shocks. Training and advisory continue to be the cornerstone of Better Work’s continuous improvement methodology, including a wide range of new content covering topics specific to COVID- 79.
  4. Better Work maintains close engagement with all stakeholders, including coordination with national constituents and UN agencies to understand and disseminate updated regulations and protocols and to support the development of appropriate interventions.

Service Model Approach and Guidelines

Better Work’s approach is based on a three-phase framework that categorises interventions based on local circumstances.  The phases are not mutually exclusive; the status of factory production and mobility restrictions may move between phases based on how the pandemic evolves within countries.

Status Status Better Work country programmes (August 2020).
Phase 1


Factory production is suspended; on-site factory visits by ILO staff are suspended
Phase 2 Factory production is partially resumed; on-site factory visits by ILO staff are suspended. Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Nicaragua
Phase 3 Factory production is partially or fully resumed; on-site factory visits by ILO staff are possible. Cambodia, Jordan, Vietnam

Advisory and Training

Better Work plans to maintain advisory and training services in all factories. The number and timing/sequence of advisory or training visits will need to be flexible, determined based on identified needs and access to factory managers and workers. In all countries, regardless of phase, Better Work will provide:

♦ Virtual training with management and workers, based on Better Work’s traditional curriculum adapted for virtual training and new trainings on COVID-19 related topics (C-19 awareness, preventative measures, mental health)

♦ Industry seminars sometimes conducted in partnership with government ministries, unions, employers or other ILO/UN projects to raise awareness to Covid-19 related national regulations and other related subjects

♦ Virtual advisory with management and workers to maintain social dialogue and support the development of shared approaches to combat the spread of the virus

♦ Support to managers and workers on self-diagnosis of compliance issues and follow-up on new or existing improvement plans

Additional training and advisory activities currently being piloted include:

♦ Self-paced e-learning for management

♦ Worker engagement via virtual platforms

♦ Micro-learnings for workers and managers (1 to 10 minute mobile training modules, animations or gamified learning for learning-on-the-go)


Where national regulations and factory conditions allow, Better Work will continue to offer assessments although the focus and mode of delivery will vary.

Better Work’s assessment tool will be used for on-site or hybrid (in-person/virtual) assessments.  In cases where Better Work cannot visit the factory in person (Phases 1 and 2), the programme will use alternative assessment modalities, including checking compliance through virtual methods alongside virtual training and advisory. Some countries may also deliver services in partnership with others, including labour inspectors. At a minimum, all assessments will include COVID-19 related issues, selected Core Labour Standards, and a subset of questions from all categories of our tool.

When in-person assessments are possible, Better Work will use the following criteria to determine which factories will be prioritised for assessments:

Factories are considered as High Priority based on the following criteria:

♦ High levels of non-compliance (public reporting/ZTP), and/or

♦ No functional social dialogue mechanism(s) in place (e.g. representative unions, functional bipartite committees)

♦ Stakeholder feedback (e.g. buyers, unions)

♦ New factories to the programme

Factories are considered as Lower Priority based on the following criteria:

♦ Low levels of non-compliance

♦ Active bipartite committee members

♦ Functional social dialogue mechanism(s) in place (e.g. representative unions, functional bipartite committees)

♦ Factory has demonstrated to be proactive in self-reporting through its improvement plan and progress reports

♦ Better Work encourages brands to accept advisory reporting at Lower Priority factories in lieu of an assessment during this recovery period.

Note: Better Work will continue to support the SLCP collaboration, including development of a tool that maintains Better Work’s compliance commitments to buyers and constituents.  Better Work Indonesia will introduce SLCP self-assessments, supported through Better Work’s advisory methodology. Learnings will be applied to other Better Work countries as they launch the tool next year.


Better Work will use its traditional tools and reporting channels to share information with manufacturers and brands. Regular updates on conditions in each Better Work country programme will be provided through calls and webinars as well as through the Better Work website. Supplemental information will also be provided through the stories and other reports on the website.

On-going Internal Training, Monitoring & Evaluation

Better work is adapting internal training, strengthening QA frameworks and evaluating pilots to ensure strong oversight and a critical review of services during the pandemic including the following measures.

♦ Introduction of internal trainings to support Better Work teams during the pandemic, including on positive mental health, leadership in a crisis, and virtual training and facilitation skills. New curriculum will be introduced based on programme needs.

♦ Adapting service model guidelines and the QA framework to support consistent and quality delivery and reporting of virtual and hybrid services.

♦ Establishment of evaluation criteria to assess the viability of virtual and hybrid services. An impact assessment of the effectiveness of virtual and hybrid services is also being developed. Results will be shared with partners and constituents to inform discussions of future services.

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