Some of the challenges that Coronavirus presented the UK’s workforce proved more immediate and visible than others. Approx 12 weeks after lockdown, a new threat began to emerge - slave labour. How do we protect the safety of undocumented workers and employers doing enough to tackle the silent pandemic that is modem slavery?
How to prevent modern day slavery within your organisation:
- Educate your leadership
- Be supply chain savvy
- Raise awareness
- Put processes in place
- Commitment validation
Modern slavery in the UK.
Between January and March 2020 alone, the UK’s modern day slavery helpline received 2176 calls, webforms and app submissions. During this short period, they identified 1,136 potential victims of modem slavery. Whilst many employers have had to quickly bring themselves up to speed with modern slavery within the the UK, many are also considering what they can do to help combat slavery. Here’s six steps for making a difference within your organisation.
1. educate your leadership about slave labour
Organisations need to familiarise themselves with the six types of modern slavery and the signs to look out for. Some basic fact-finding may be required alongside a briefing of leadership, HR teams and senior management. More organisations are incorporating modern slavery training into their induction and training programs.
2. be supply chain savvy
77% of companies operating within the UK believe that there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring in their supply chains. This means that organisations have a responsibility to protect the people within their supply chain in addition to their immediate workforce. For those working with recruitment partners, always ask to see their modern slavery statement and ask what accreditations they have.
3. raise awareness and make everyone accountable
Those experiencing forced labour, or other signs of modern slavery, are likely to be isolated both in and outside of work. Often threatened with violence, many do not feel safe to speak with the authorities. Many who experience slavery also comment on their movements being closely restricted, making it difficult to reach for help. In some cases the coercion is so extreme that individuals do not even realise they are victims.
Employers can, and should, communicate the signs of slavery to all members of their workforce. It is often a line manager or colleague who identifies the signs and reaches out for help. Posters, information leaflets and intranet posts can be a quick and cost effective way to make a difference at speed.
4. put processes in place
Organisations must have a strong process in place to allow employees to raise any safety concerns. Any alert, and further investigation, needs to be managed in a sensitive and private and confidential manner. Most importantly, the safety of the person at risk of modern slavery must be protected throughout this process.
5. partnerships can make all the difference
Organisations can learn a great deal from specialist organisations within the field of modern slavery. Fashion giant ASOS is a prime example. ASOS partnered with charity Anti-Slavery to help minimise modern slavery risks within ASOS’ diverse and complex global supply chain. Together they have helped improve awareness, supply chain due diligence and they work together to lobby to policymakers to tackle modern slavery together.
6. validate your commitment
For those truly committed to making a difference, the Ethical Labour Sourcing (ELS) Verification Scheme has been established to provide assurance that organisations have made a measurable commitment to manage ethical labour sourcing challenges in their company and supply chains.
The ELS Standard provides a framework for verifying ethical labour sourcing, and a route for companies to verify their systems and processes, including the reporting requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.