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Background During the COVID-19 pandemic, and recognising the sacrifice of health and care workers alongside discrimination, violence, poor working conditions and other violations of their rights, health and safety, in 2021 the World Health Assembly requested WHO to develop a global health and care worker compact, building on existing normative documentation, to provide guidance to ‘protect health and care workers and safeguard their rights’.

Methods A review of existing international law and other normative documents was conducted. We manually searched five main sets of international instruments: (1) International Labour Organization conventions and recommendations; (2) WHO documents; (3) United Nations (UN) human rights treaties and related documents; (4) UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and (5) the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols. We included only legal or other normative documents with a global or regional focus directly addressing or relevant to health and care workers or workers overall.

Results More than 70 documents met our search criteria. Collectively, they fell into four domains, within which we identified 10 distinct areas: (1) preventing harm, encompassing (A) occupational hazards, (B) violence and harassment and (C) attacks in situations of fragility, conflict and violence; (2) inclusivity, encompassing (A) non-discrimination and equality; (3) providing support, encompassing (A) fair and equitable remuneration, (B) social protection and (C) enabling work environments and (4) safeguarding rights, encompassing (A) freedom of association and collective bargaining and (B) whistle-blower protections and freedom from retaliation.

Discussion A robust legal and policy framework exists for supporting health and care workers and safeguarding their rights. Specific human rights, the right to health overall, and other binding and non-binding legal documents provide firm grounding for the compact.

However, these existing commitments are not being fully met. Implementing the compact will require more effective governance mechanisms and new policies, in partnership with health and care workers themselves.


The Global Health and Care Worker Compact: Evidence Base and Policy Considerations. BMJ Global Health: World Health Organization; 2023. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

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Publication Citation

BMJ Global Health, Vol. 8, Issue 7, e012337.