Why is addressing Modern Slavery and Trafficking in the Workplace important?
July 30th marks the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and highlights the fact that Modern Slavery is still a problem in the world today. All organisations need to play their part in raising awareness and working together to eradicate the existence of both slavery and trafficking.
The United Nations have decreed that this year’s theme puts victims of human trafficking at the centre of their campaign and highlights the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking. In this way, we can all become more educated in how effective measures to prevent this crime and protect those at risk can be implemented.
The United Nations states that:
“Many victims of human trafficking have experienced ignorance or misunderstanding in their attempts to get help. They have had traumatic post-rescue experiences during identification interviews and legal proceedings. Some have faced revictimisation and punishment for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. Others have been subjected to stigmatisation or received inadequate support. Learning from victims’ experiences and turning their suggestions into concrete actions will lead to a more victim-centred and effective approach in combating human trafficking”.
Could Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking really still affect my business in 2021?
Modern Slavery can take many different forms, but increasingly cases of human trafficking, labour exploitation and debt bondage are appearing in the UK workplace. Modern slavery can exist anywhere – in larger organisations where goods are imported and exported, as well as in our communities and local businesses.
Complex supply chains can often allow forced labour to thrive and companies with a significant UK market presence often indirectly rely on people working in slavery to produce the goods they sell, or may have supply chains that can encourage trafficking. Numerous companies subcontract their services or have supply chains managed by external staff which often unintentionally masks or hides a company’s involvement in trafficking or slavery.
According to antislavery.org,
“Human Trafficking exists because vulnerable people are often willing to take big risks in order to provide for their families”.
Traffickers exploit and manipulate human emotions for their own gain, often promising victims they can make dreams come true and change their lives, frequently offering jobs, accommodation and wages which never materialise. Victims may find that they have to give up their passport, pay a trafficking debt or pay ‘commission’ to their traffickers. They can be left trapped in a different country with no possessions and no means to return. Victims then become reliant upon their traffickers and may face threats and violence if they refuse to work. And so the cycle continues.
On a local basis or in small-scale industries, many of us may struggle to believe that Human Trafficking could be happening in our local area or in companies in our community. This is incorrect. People can be exploited in the farming industry, in construction, beauty and hospitality, and even when working in other people’s homes. In fact, any role that involves people being trafficked to work for very low pay, or even none at all, is modern-day slavery in action.
Educating your workforce to help prevent Trafficking and Modern Slavery
The Modern Slavery Act (2015) states that all organisations with a turnover of over £37 million must produce an annual statement on how they are tackling Modern Slavery. However, all organisations, regardless of size, have a responsibility to ensure their staff are aware that the problem exists and what they can do to help eradicate it and provide support for victims.
Many companies now request evidence of an ethical supply chain as a part of their working policies to ensure that all individuals remain free from Modern Slavery and are treated fairly and justly and their Human Rights are supported.
By recognising and talking about this issue, employers also help to raise awareness amongst their employees. Implementing staff training such as that provided in our Modern Slavery Awareness Training Course is essential to help teach all staff about the issue of trafficking and Modern Slavery in workforces across the UK through educating and informing. By providing necessary information, you can ensure that your staff have all the knowledge they need to keep your workplace operating ethically and fairly.
What signs of Modern Slavery or Trafficking should I train my staff to look out for?
There are a number of general indicators of modern slavery and trafficking that all employees and members of the public need to be made aware of. These include (but are not limited to):
Victims may not know their home or work address, they may live in poor, sub-standard or unsuitable accommodation and have no choice about where they live or who they live with. It may also be noted that victims of trafficking live in excessively large groups in the same place
Victims may not have a contract, or may be unable to choose when or where they work. They may not be given time off work or could be forced to work long hours over long periods. Victims of trafficking or modern slavery may also be reluctant to share any personal information with their colleagues.
Victims may not have possession of their passport or identity documents. They may be reluctant to seek medical care when needed and could seem to depend on their employer for all their work, travel and accommodation without having any freedom of choice.
Victims may suffer injuries that could be a result of assault or measures of control, they may wear the same clothes every day, not be dressed adequately for work or be without protective or warm clothing. They could also have unexplained injuries.
Victims may receive little or no payment for their work, have no access to their own money or be controlled or punished financially.
If you suspect that someone is in slavery, do not confront them or try to fix it yourself as this could lead to increased harm for them. Instead, inform relevant authorities or organisations such as the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or if necessary call the Police.
If you would like more information about how we can support your staff training and help raise your employees’ awareness of Modern Slavery, take a look at our Modern Slavery Awareness Online Training which forms part of our Corporate Governance suite of courses which includes also LGBTQ Awareness training, Equality and Diversity training and many more.