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Modern day slavery and exploitation

Modern slavery is a serious crime that violates human rights. Victims are forced, threatened, or deceived and controlled in order to exploit them. It is a hidden crime – we need to work together to protect and help victims.

Types of modern day slavery and exploitation

Below are examples of the various types of exploitation:

  • Labour exploitation or debt bondage - vulnerable people are exploited for labour or forced to work for little or no money. You can find details on the Modern Slavery Act at GOV.UK. Victims can be any age, gender and race but more often than not they are male. 
  • Domestic servitude - victims are made to work almost constantly in private households
  • Sexual exploitation - adults and children are groomed or forced into sex work or to perform sexual acts.
  • Criminal exploitation - individuals or groups of people are controlled, maltreated, or forced to commit crime and unlawful acts against their will.

Who are the victims?

There is no typical victim of slavery – victims can be men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities, nationalities and cut across the population. But it is normally more likely amongst the most vulnerable, and within minority or socially excluded groups.

Approximately two-thirds of victims are women, and a third are men. Every fourth victim of modern slavery is a child. Child victims are victims of child abuse and should therefore be treated as such using existing child protection procedures and statutory protocols.

Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are some of the key drivers that contribute to vulnerability to becoming victims of modern slavery. What’s more, victims can often face more than one type of abuse and slavery, for example if they are sold to another trafficker and then forced into another form of exploitation.

What to look out for?

It is all of our responsibility to ensure that criminals don’t get away with it and victims receive the support they are entitled to and need. Here are some signs to look for that may indicate modern slavery:

  • rarely be allowed to travel on their own
  • may have no identification documents or have few personal possessions
  • signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished 
  • Overcrowding, poor living conditions in multi-occupancy housing
  • travelling at unusual times, very early or late at night
  • may appear frightened, or hesitant to talk to people in uniform/authority.

Who has what powers to tackle labour exploitation?

It is important to emphasise that we have limited powers when it comes to these issues. We have no powers to check on working conditions inside a building or to enforce the payment of the living wage. 

Alongside the police, we essentially support the identification of rogue employers and then work with the following national bodies to tackle illegal activity.

The four main national enforcement bodies are: 

  1. Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) - the foremost investigative agency for labour exploitation in the UK. Its role is to work in partnership with police and other law enforcement agencies to protect vulnerable and exploited workers. Find out more information and report issues via the GLAA website.
  2. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) - as they are responsible for collection of taxes and the administration of other regulatory regimes such as the national minimum wage and the issuance of national insurance numbers, they can play a crucial role in any criminal investigation. Report minimum wage/national insurance issues at GOV.UK.
  3. Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS) - are responsible investigating complaints, taking enforcement action through the powers at our disposal, including prosecution and unlimited fines and identifying agency workers at risk of exploitation. Find out more and report issues at reports issues at GOV.UK.
  4. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - who are responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare, and for research into occupational risks in Great Britain. For further information visit the HSE website.

What can be done to help potential victims?

There is a way to help bring these cruel acts to an end. Just by being aware of the signs to spot and by remaining vigilant, anyone can help to report suspicions about potential victims; the premises where victims might be held and businesses and workplaces in which victims might be forced to work.

Professionals (including the police, social workers, immigration and relevant support organisations) are working together to identify and safeguard potential victims in line with the UK’s legal obligations and should be familiar with the National Referral Mechanism, the official system of identification and assistance for potential victims of trafficking, and the rights of victims.

What we are doing

We want to ensure that the community is a safe place, and everyone has access to fair pay and safe work. At the same time, we want to preserve the long tradition of Leicester being at the heart of garment production in the UK.

In September 2019, we launched a Garment Sector Non-Compliance Partnership which is made up of many enforcement agencies, local groups and not-for-profit organisations as well as the industry itself. The partnership’s aim is to promote and encourage compliance across the garment sector operating within the city by addressing the issues caused by labour exploitation and modern day slavery.

We have also been progressing a specific initiative to a establish a textiles skills/training centre, and are looking for support from across the industry for this. These interventions are all focused on growing a successful, sustainable and ethical textiles industry; support has included face to face business support and access to grant funding.

How do I report it?

If you see signs of modern slavery or labour exploitation you can contact any of the below for help and advice.

The police should always be contacted in the first instance, on 999 in emergencies, 101 in other situations or online.

Other resources