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What can I do to help tackle Modern Slavery in the UK workplace?

by | Jul 21, 2022 | Corporate Governance

At the end of this month, July 30th 2022 marks the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and reminds us that many forms of Modern Slavery are still a problem across the world today. All organisations have a duty to play their part in raising awareness and working together to eradicate the existence of both slavery and trafficking. According to the United Nations, in 2018 about 50,000 human trafficking victims were detected and reported by 148 countries.

Modern Slavery can take many forms including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude or slavery. According to Gov.UK : ‘Any consent victims have given to their treatment will be irrelevant where they have been coerced, deceived or provided with payment or benefit to achieve that consent’. But Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking are not just an international problem. The impacts of these crimes are still seen and felt every day in the United Kingdom.

A new BBC Documentary, The Real Mo Farah has this week revealed that Sir Mo Farah was brought to the UK as a child, given a false name, and forced to work as a domestic servant. According to the BBC, Sir Mo said he had to do housework and child care in exchange for food and had his relative’s contact details taken from him and destroyed. While his case has caused outrage in the media, sadly his story is still all too common.

Statistics about Modern Slavery in the UK

In 2020, the Office of National Statistics published a report setting out the challenges of producing an accurate measure of how prevalent Modern Slavery is in the UK because of its’ hidden nature. They provided statistics taken from the National Referral Mechanism which showed that:

  • In 2020, more than 10,00 potential victims of Modern Slavery were referred to the National Referral Mechanism
  • 63% of victims claimed their exploitation had happened in the UK and 26% said that it had happened overseas
  • Male victims increased from 68% in 2019 to 74% in 2020

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 and also in our communities, local businesses and households. 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, “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 their dreams come true or 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. Sadly, this is the case. 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.

Using and Abusing Technology in Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking

This year, the theme for World Trafficking day focuses on the role of technology as a tool that can both enable and impede human trafficking. The United Nations explain that: ‘With the global expansion in the use of technology – intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift of our everyday life to online platforms – the crime of human trafficking has conquered cyber space. The internet and digital platforms offer traffickers numerous tools to recruit, exploit, and control victims; organize their transport and accommodation; advertise victims and reach out to potential clients; communicate among perpetrators; and hide criminal proceeds – and all that with greater speed, cost-effectiveness and anonymity’. However, technology can also be used to impede and prevent human trafficking and modern slavery.

The internet gives organisations a platform to pool and share resources and gather digital evidence against the crimes being committed. Online resources can also be used to prevent modern slavery by training and educating workforces through e-learning as well as awareness-raising activities on the safe use of the internet and social media. Raising awareness and providing education gives people the tools to be alert to the dangers of modern slavery, as well as helping to prevent them falling victim to it themselves.

Training and Educating your Workforce to help prevent Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking

The Modern Slavery Act (2015) law sets out the UK Government’s legal requirements for how organisations must address and report on modern slavery. This law applies to any company doing business in the UK with an annual turnover of £36 million or more and states they must produce annual statements about 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 to know 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 the problem of modern slavery in workforces across the UK through educating and informing. By providing relevant, reputable 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 might I notice in the Workplace?

There are a number of general indicators of modern slavery and trafficking that everybody should know about. These include (but are not limited to):

Legal Documents

Is the person in possession of their own documents? (Passport, bank details etc). Victims often have to give possession of these to someone else or may have to use false or forged ID documents.

Living Arrangements

Does the person know where they live? 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. Victims of trafficking may also live in excessively large groups in the same place

Working Conditions

Do they have a contract? Can they choose how or where they work? A person 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.

Medical Care

Does the person have untreated injuries? Are they reluctant to seek help or see a health care professional? A person might be vague about how their injuries occured or dismiss your concerns.

Physical Appearance

Does the person appear malnourished or withdrawn? A person might 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.


Does the person seem to be in debt to someone else or dependent on someone else for money? Victims may receive little or no payment for their work, have no access to their own money or be controlled or punished financially. Behaviour Is the person withdrawn or frightened? Can they answer questions and speak for themselves? A person may appear under the influence or control of others or be unable to provide basic facts. 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. As well as offering our e-learning Modern Slavery course, we can work with your organisation to design and develop bespoke learning solutions, tailor-made to suit your business needs, and reflect your organisation’s ethos and policies on Modern Slavery.