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How to spot modern slavery in your organisation

24 August 2022

Human exploitation can take various forms. Modern slavery occurs when a person is forced to work against their will, restricted in their movement, treated as a commodity or property, or characterised as owned or controlled by another. Threats, deception, or coercion are used to persuade victims into being exploited in human trafficking. Victims are sold for financial advantage whether they are sold within their own country or outside. Modern slavery is forcing someone to work for little or no remuneration. Human trafficking victims are frequently sold into labour exploitation. Labor exploitation is the most widespread type of slavery in the United Kingdom.

Those who are victims of labour exploitation live and work in deplorable conditions, living in overcrowded, dismal, and unhygienic surroundings. They are frequently required to work double shifts and move from one job to another. Victims of labour exploitation are frequently verbally and physically mistreated. Needless to say, their basic human rights are violated.

How to spot modern slavery?

Many variables must be considered when determining whether modern slavery is taking place. Organisations must always be on the lookout for modern slavery red flags. Some of the signs include:

  • Appear to be under someone else's control and hesitant to interact with others
  • Lack personal identification, have few personal belongings, wear the same clothes every day or wear inappropriate clothes for work
  • Unable to move freely
  • Be hesitant to talk to co-workers, strangers or the authorities
  • Appear frightened, withdrawn, or show signs of physical or psychological abuse (multiple bruises, bed sores, fear, depression, fractures, burns, low weight)
  • Dropped off and collected for work always in the same way, especially at unusual times

Other external signs that may point to a worker is being exploited are:

  • Excessive recruitment fees and/or charging workers unlawfully for health checks
  • Misinformation about contract details or a lack of a clear written contract
  • Unnecessary wage deductions or worker underpayment
  • Employee passport confiscation or visa restriction to a single employer
  • Workers are exposed to harsh treatment, are compelled to work long hours, and/or are subjected to physical or mental abuse.
  • Undocumented workers are being threatened with deportation if they leave.

What do businesses need to do to mitigate modern slavery? 

  • Businesses with a turnover greater than £36 million and public bodies with a budget greater than £36 million will be required to publish an annual modern slavery statement.
  • A statement must explain the efforts taken by the organisation that year to identify, prevent, and minimise modern slavery in their operations and supply networks.
  • Statements must include specific measures in six categories. These are now "recommended" categories to include, but they will soon become legal requirements:
  • Structure of the organisation and supply chain
  • Modern slavery and human trafficking policies
  • Processes of due diligence
  • Risk evaluation and management
  • Efforts made to prevent contemporary slavery (and measurement against performance indicators, if relevant)
  • Employee education on modern slavery and human trafficking 

Disregarding modern slavery and human trafficking will not make the problem go away; but, ignoring the warning signs will make things worse for you and your business. Act now by enlisting the assistance of a neutral vendor managed service to assist you with any step of your contingent labour recruitment process.

There are examples of even the largest corporate organisations being caught up in modern slavery rings. The most recent example is Biffa and the news article.

Don’t let your business be next.


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