It’s been hitting the headlines hard and awareness levels are on the rise, and rightly so. When it comes to the topic of modern slavery, we’ve answered all those need to know questions. Together we can boost knowledge and awareness and help drive change within the world of work. We cover:

  • what is modern slavery?
  • who does modern slavery affect?
  • does modern slavery exist in the UK
  • what does modern day slavery in the UK look like?  
  • what are the six types of modern day slavery?
  • what are the signs of modern slavery? 
  • what can be done to combat slave labour?  

What is modern slavery? 

Modern slavery (also referred to as modern day slavery) is the severe exploitation of individuals for personal or commercial gain. Within the world of work, slave labour exists when a person is forced to conduct work and they’re not free to leave. 

According to the charity Anti-Slavery International, it’s estimated that a staggering 40 million people are trapped in modern slavery across the globe. 

Who does modern slavery affect? 

Globally, 1 in 4 people trapped by modern day slavery are children. Over 70% of them are female. 

Does modern slavery exist in the UK? 

Sadly, yes it does - but what does slavery in the UK look like? In 2019, the authorities identified 10,000 potential victims of slavery in Britain. The modern slavery helpline also reported that their latest annual figures showed a dramatic increase in contacts to their helpline - up 25% on the previous year. Of course, the real number of people trapped in slavery is predicted to be much higher. 

What does modern slavery in the UK look like? 

Modern slavery takes a number of different shapes (which we cover later in this article). It’s believed that ‘forced labour’ is the most prominent form of slavery within Britain and there are numerous examples of exploitation within the world of work. This can range from slave labour in car washes, nail bars, cafes right through to the work conducted on site within construction and manufacturing. 

What are the types of modern slavery?

Anti-Slavery International breaks slave labour down into six key categories. Forced labour and human trafficking tend to be prevalent within the UK. 

  1. Forced labour - work or services individuals are forced to do (with the threat of punishment) 
  2. Human trafficking - using threats or violence to manipulate, recruit and/or transport people in order to exploit them
  3. Bonded labour - people who are trapped in poverty borrow money and are then forced into labour in order to pay that debt. This tends to be a wider issue within third world countries.  
  4. Descent-based slavery - this is based on class to some extent, where slave status is effectively passed down the family line
  5. Slavery of children - this can include child soldiers, trafficking and domestic slavery. 
  6. Forced and early marriage - when a person is married against their will. 

What are some of the signs of modern day labour? 

There are a number of signs that both employers and colleagues should be mindful of in order to help identify victims of modern slavery: 

  • lack of personal documentation (passport, photo ID)
  • limited personal items or belongings
  • poor hygiene or wearing unsuitable clothes (wearing same clothes frequently or wearing unsuitable clothing within the work environment)  
  • individuals may appear isolated and/or reluctant to engage with others
  • stringent travel/commuting patterns (collected and dropped off to work)   
  • appear frightened or demonstrate signs of physical or psychological abuse.

What can be done to combat slave labour?

Education is the first step. Ensuring employers and employees understand the basic facts is the first step in the right direction. Randstad has also created some guidance for employers who want to ensure their workforce is safe and protected from modern day slavery.

Read our advice on how to prevent modern day slavery within your organisation here.